Steve’s Letter – November 2013
NOVEMBER 1, 2013
I’m not so shallow to think that spilled water is the equivalent of cancer and war. However, when your pants are wet and your computer won’t work, it’s hard to remember to put things into perspective. Unexpected interruptions have a tendency to skew what’s important and what isn’t.
I had a miserable morning. Coffee and Jesus always get me up in the morning. Well, this morning neither was able to make it better.
Each morning (usually early), I go into my office, start the coffee, and then walk downstairs to the kitchen to get a large glass of water with ice. Today, when I walked back into my office, I could smell the coffee…and looked forward to rejoicing in the day that the Lord had made.
That’s when I set down the glass of water, hit it with my hand and knocked it over, spilling water all over my computer, the keyboard, the printer, the work on my desk, my chair, the floor and my pants. (If you had come in at that time, you would have recommended Depends.)
It was sort of the equivalent of eating a live frog first thing in the morning so that nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.
Wait. You’re telling me that in a world with cancer, a crashing economy, war in the Middle East, churches burning and people starving, you had a miserable day because you spilled some water?
Of course not!
I’m not so shallow to think that spilled water is the equivalent of cancer and war. However, when your pants are wet and your computer won’t work, it’s hard to remember to put things into perspective. Unexpected interruptions have a tendency to skew what’s important and what isn’t. (“When you’re up to your posterior in alligators, it’s hard to remember that your initial objective was to drain the swamp!”)
Now to move from the frivolous to the important. This morning, I thought about priorities and then I thought about Jesus. You’ve read the story in Matthew 9. Jesus encountered a woman suffering from a discharge of blood for twelve years. At the time, Jesus was headed to the home of a ruler whose daughter was either dying or had died. He had places to go, things to do, and God’s work to be accomplished, and this woman got in the way.
She knew she was interrupting an important man doing important things, so the woman came up behind Jesus, thinking she would steal her healing. If I can just touch his coattail, she thought, I’ll be healed. And she was. In fact, Jesus was pleased that she came to him and said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well” (Matthew 9:22).
The woman was not on Jesus’ To Do list for that day.
Does that happen to you? The day is planned and doable, and then something or someone gets in the way. Maybe it’s something like a spilled glass of water or the demands of your family, an accident, a pleasant surprise or a tragedy. The train was moving along just fine and then it gets knocked off the rails.
There’s an old pastor’s prayer that has more reality to it than the punch line would suggest: “Lord, I could do my job if it weren’t for all these people.” Maybe so, unless, of course, the people are your job.
What do we do with these infernal interruptions?
The first thing is to try and remember that God is the God of interruptions. In Acts 16, Paul discovered when he tried to go to Bithynia that “the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.” That I suspect was an interruption. Then Paul found himself called to an unexpected trip to Rome…that started with the interruption of his arrest in Jerusalem. And on the way to Rome, there was a shipwreck (Acts 27). It was an interruption of an interruption.
In fact, the Bible is full of interruptions from Genesis to Revelation…and all of them are under the guidance of a sovereign God who “works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Ephesians 1:11), writing the story of redemption and a monument to his glory.
There’s a principle here and it’s been a cornerstone for me for a long time: God’s ways are circuitous and whatever you think God is doing, he probably isn’t. That means the trick is to “go with the flow” of what God has ordained. Nothing is an interruption…at least to God who planned it.
One of the real problems with us as Bible-believing Christians is that we sometimes act as if we have God in our back pockets. James wrote: “Come now, you who say, ‘today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogance” (James 4:13-16).
But there is more than just recognizing the God we worship is a God of interruptions. We must also learn to set aside the irritation and be thankful for the interruption. Paul wrote that we are to “give thanks always and for everything” (Ephesians 5:20). It’s a radical and counterintuitive thought.
I have to confess that I’m not very good at this. If you had been in my office (one of the good things about getting up early is that nobody else does) when I knocked over that glass of water, you would have been shocked. You ever heard a preacher cuss? It’s not pretty. Not only that, even on those days when I don’t make a mess before I begin, my prayer life (and I am a man of prayer) isn’t very orthodox. I often grade God and tell him exactly what I think he should have done. I complain, “If you really loved us, these things wouldn’t happen. Is that any way to treat your kids?” Or “Let me give you some advice…”
No, you don’t!
Yes, I do.
I wouldn’t do that in thunderstorms.
We don’t have to pretend
Yes, I can. Do you know why? God is the only place where I don’t have to wear a mask or pretend, and where I can say whatever I feel or think and know that I will still be accepted and loved. Where else can you be honest except before God? It’s not as if he says to you, “I’m shocked…I can’t believe you think that. And I had such high expectations for you!” He knew what I was thinking anyway. If you can’t be that honest with God, maybe Jesus likes me more than he likes you…or chances are, you probably just haven’t “spilled enough water” and reacted the way I did.
And that brings me to Thanksgiving.
Yes, this is November and it’s Thanksgiving (for those of you in Canada, it was last month). Holidays irritate me. Do you know why? Because they are interruptions, that’s why. It’s a day lost in a busy week and one has to work twice as hard the day before Thanksgiving and the day after Thanksgiving just to do what needs to be done. Why can’t we just say a Thanksgiving prayer or something? Maybe we can recognize that we’re to be thankful all the time and then go on about our work.
Steve, you’re an ungrateful brat!
Yeah, I know. The purpose of this letter is not only to confess that, but to also repent of it.
Doesn’t matter what the “interruption” is…it’s him. He loves me and has it all in control. I’m going to try and remember that. And be thankful the next time I spill a glass of water as well as (just so you know) all Thanksgiving Day.
He told me to remind you too.
In His Grip,