It's been a hectic two weeks. I've been aware of this based on my own level of stress and increased exhaustion. But I have been somewhat significantly less aware than many people around me. In my experience, you are rarely, if ever, the final authority on your own emotional well being. Unless of course, no one else has the dubious honor of witnessing it.
My point is that I'm not always managing my reactions as well as I think I am. I'm comforted to know that sometimes, by God's grace, I'm told I handle them better than I think I do, but such was not the feedback I received these past couple of weeks. I've had more than a few people ask me if things are busy at home or at work to which I answer, "Yes."
We have somehow gradually evolved from the family with few committments into a suburban flurry of activity typical of working parents with three teenagers. God bless Maggie for not being enticed into the mayhem that is organized sports, music, drama, dance, etc. The other two are making up for her lack of interest with basketball, wrestling, band, youth orchestra, science olympiad and youth group. There are practices, games, concerts, rehearsals, meetings and competitions pretty much daily. And the sixteen year old in the house is nowhere near getting a license. So we drive kids around. A lot. That's after work, grocery shopping, errands, dinner, dishes, laundry and the like. I'm not going to admit how seldom I clean, apart from surface clearing and Clorox Wipes. That's the daily stuff. I've had two baby showers, one wake, a museum visit, and a weekend out of town to boot. That's been the home life.
I can't begin to list the number of unusual projects and tasks at work. Well, maybe I can...two significant new hires and two more in the works, a complete office move for the entire central staff by the end of this month, reworking a slew of meeting times, locations and participants while launching new ministry goals and ideas for three campuses. The work hasn't just increased, the pace at which we hope to complete it seems to quicken daily. There was one day this week that it all escalated into an outburst on my part. Not a full blown temper tantram mind you, but a demonstration of one that is most certainly not resting in the power and grace of God. And it was brought to my attention. Twice.
I'm grateful that the first time it came to me was by the Holy Spirit through a gentle but firm conviction that I ought to apologize immediately to the co-worker who bore the biggest brunt of my frustration. I was glad I got that apology in before the second conviction came in the form of another co-worker who was present when it happened.
I'm a people pleaser so I don't like hearing when I've blown it. But I'm glad people tell me. It's part of the sanctification process. I'm also glad a day passed before the second notice. It reduced my defensiveness level a bit. Because I think the tendency is always to shift the blame - if not onto another person, then at the very least to the circumstances. So it's good that I've had this image in my mind for a few months from a DVD study we are doing in our small group at church. The study is called "What Did You Expect?" and the subtitle is "Redeeming the Realities of Marriage." Provactive title, don't you think?
It's been amazing. The first week's session included a little demonstration. The man teaching holds a full water bottle on the stage and shakes it vigorously then asks the audience why water came out of the bottle. Almost in unison everyone replies, "Because you shook it." Then he asked the same question again, but he stressed one word. "Why did water come out of the bottle?" There was a short pause before someone said, "Because water was in the bottle." Then he goes on to unpack the illustration of how we like to pass the blame - it's the one who shook me who's at fault, I couldn't help my reaction! But the fact is nothing comes out that wasn't already inside in the first place. If inside there is nothing but peace, gentleness and self control, then that's what comes out no matter how violently you are shaken.
Getting called on the carpet for spilling my pent up frustration was actually an answer to prayer. I've been asking God lately to show me more of my sin. Be careful what you wish for folks, this is one of those prayers He always seems to answer rapidly. Don't misunderstand, I'm not looking for a guilt trip over how very far short I fall of the grace of God. But I do desire that I would be more grieved over every offense I commit against the God who has given me every good gift I have ever received. That was a lesson learned during a Beatitudes sermon series at church. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. I always thought it was talking about God's comfort during times of pain and loss. It's true that God comforts during those times, but the Beatitude is actually talking about how those who mourn their sin, their offenses against God, will be comforted. We aren't left discouraged and hopeless knowing we will never measure up, never stop failing. We are comforted by the very person we are offending. And He promises we won't be sinning forever. Christ will come back and restore everything and we will be like Him, in His presence. For those who have placed their faith and trust in Jesus as their Savior, there is no punishment left for the many offenses. They were all placed on Him. No anger left. No wrath of God coming for those in Christ.
The more I dwell on that amazing truth the more I experience the supernatural peace of God which transcends all understanding.
And that's a much better emotion to have churning inside when everything is shaking.