This is kind of funny, in retrospect.
If you’ve been reading this blog regularly, you know that the last couple of weeks (basically since I got back from Vegas) have been a real hoot — car trouble, depression, deadlines, all kinds of weird stressors dumping into my life. But with the exception of my third straight disheartening congregational visit last Sunday, all of it had passed by Friday. And not to pull a muscle patting myself on the back, but I thought I’d handled it fairly well. This week, things have been going smoothly — I’m on track with my to-do list, the car is fine, I’m getting my exercise in. I’m doing great.
So great that this afternoon the Supermodel had to come and figuratively kick me in the butt.
She’s gentle about it, mind you — all she does is ask “what’s going on?”, with slight undertones to indicate that whatever is going on, she really doesn’t fancy it. But it’s surprisingly effective. So I had to stop and think for a second as to what, in fact, was. And I found I was angry … but I couldn’t grasp why without giving it a couple of hours’ more consideration. And then the light bulb (a 23-watt CFL; we’re trying to save energy here) went off above my head.
It was all the leftover anger I didn’t express last week when I was so frustrated with things. I’d thought I’d beaten it pretty well, but I hadn’t — I’d just suppressed it. And now it was coming out my pores like too much garlic.
We like (well, I like) to convince ourselves sometimes that we’ve solved problems permanently when in fact we’ve only shunted them aside temporarily. I’m not sure why I and others like me do this — maybe we want the sense of accomplishment so much that we try to achieve it before we’ve actually accomplished. Or maybe we feel like we have to fix whatever needs fixing before someone else sees that we’re broken. But we do this — and then whatever our issue is comes back and runs us over like a new F-150, leaving us to chisel ourselves off the asphalt and start over.
It’s at times like this that I have to remember my own past, and how many issues I used to have that I no longer do. When I do that, I also recall that none of them — and by “none” I mean “NONE” — got solved except through years of work and prayer and support from others. I had some problems that took 30 years to create. (I’m only 39 now, so that’s serious.) And a problem that took three decades to make is not going to be solved with a wave of the hand and a quick prayer. You can only remove something overnight if it was built overnight; anything else takes a lot more clean-up.
And yet so often we delude ourselves into thinking that if we just do one simple process, take one “magic pill,” go forward and say one prayer at one meeting, the hang-up of our choice will just vanish (what author Brennan Manning calls “push, pull, click, click, one saint right quick”). I’ve heard of that happening. But I’ve never seen it — not in my own life, not in the life of anyone I know. For all of us non-urban-legends, we’ve had to do what Paul says and “work out our salvation with fear and trembling”. And there is real fear and actual trembling, because change is not only hard work, it’s scary. Thankfully, we aren’t having to do it on our own, as it says in the very next verse “for God is at work in you”. (The passage is Philippians 2:12-13, if you want to look it up for yourself.) It won’t come to pass without God working on it, and it won’t come to pass without us working on it too. And it won’t happen instantly, regardless.
And not only does it not have to, but God promises it won’t. Same book of the Bible, different passage — Philippians 1:6:
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
I love that verse, because it’s a double-edged sword, saying two things at once. One is that God is not going to abandon us or leave us half-done, that He will finish what He started with us. The other is that it won’t be finished until we’re face-to-face with Jesus — either when we die or when we’re raptured in the “last days”. Until one of those two things happens, we’re in process. And don’t let the “sinless perfection is achievable on this earth” crowd tell you otherwise. The only person who never sinned was Jesus, because (being God and all) he didn’t start out with a fallen nature like everyone else. Everyone else has sinned, fallen short of His glory, and thus needs a Savior. Thankfully, one is available — but you’re not Him, and neither am I.
So, enough with suppressing things. Better to just deal with them — recognize I’m angry and frustrated, deal with the particulars involved, maybe punch the heck out of a pillow (don’t laugh — sometimes it helps) — and keep dealing with them until the day comes when I don’t have to. And most of all, always remember that I’m not perfect, and it’s not my job to make myself perfect under my own power. God supplies the power and the wisdom, I supply the willingness to point in the proper direction. (more or less.) And together we’ll get there.
*sigh* … I feel so much better now.