God often speaks to other people. To me, not so much. And yet ten years ago I distinctly heard God. Don’t worry, it was not an audible voice like those muttering homeless guys hear. It was ten words that took shape in my mind on the night after my eldest daughter’s wedding. It was a promise from God: “I am going to bless you and increase your house.” I wept for joy. But the days and weeks turned into years, and still no grandchildren were forthcoming. It wasn’t until seven years later that my eldest daughter informed me that Cindy and I were going to be grandparents. Luca was born on September 5th. He is now three years old and the lad has been more of a blessing to me than I can articulate. He has become more precious than career, a comfortable retirement, possessions, you name it. In short he is more precious to me than me myself.
A week ago my youngest daughter informed me that she is pregnant. Then last Friday my eldest daughter told me (via text) that she is also pregnant, again. My cup runneth over. My wife, Cindy, has nearly lost her mind with excitement and utter joy over the soon-to-be additions to our clan.
We are an immediate satisfaction society. But God does not act on our timetable, no matter how often we pray, beseech, plead, or throw a tantrum. I can’t stress that enough: God DOES NOT act on our schedule. We either have faith that he knows when and how it is best to bless his people, or we don’t. Ten years ago I was forty-nine years old. Back then I would not have appreciated grandchildren as much as I do now that I’m knocking on sixty and the things I once thought so important have faded into the background. The place I’m at has freed me to be completely present when I am with my grandson. He gets my undivided attention. So will the grandchildren who are on the way.
If God makes you a promise, he might deliver right away, or you might have to wait for it . . . a long time. With the benefit of hindsight (a skill I employ with expert proficiency), ten years ago I was not ready for grandchildren. In the church, we often hear it preached that God’s timing is perfect. That isn’t just a trite slogan to help us develop the admirable character trait of patience. It is a reality that must work itself into our faith. So why does God reveal what he intends to do and then he makes us wait, sometimes for many years? I don’t know, but I have a theory: he does it so we can see how much he has helped us grow and prepare for receiving his promised blessing. In other words, so he gets more veneration than he would if he’d simply given us the blessing right away. And that’s very appropriate.
My nasal passages are the culmination of a long history of genetic malfunctions. Let’s just say that for years my nasal orifices have interfered with the passage of air to my lungs and on to my brain. After trying a cornucopia of conservative treatment options, my doctor eventually took a gander up my nose and recommended turbinate nasal reduction surgery. Fortunately, it is a fairly routine outpatient procedure. This brings my total outpatient surgeries up to three in the past few years. That’s about how many my father had at this age (which is a disturbing realization).
It has been a few days since the surgery and I can already tell my nasal airway is more open than it has been for many years. I don’t wake up at night gasping for breath. (For years I suspected Cindy of trying to smother me with a pillow.) Here’s the thing: I had adapted to my defective schnozz. I used Breathe Right nasal strips and prescription nasal sprays to get me through the night. I assumed that it was just a problem I’d have to deal with for the rest of my life. Now that the problem has been removed, I feel much better.
Few people have a shortage of problems. We adapt so effectively that we often go through life unaware of some of our problems. But what if our problems are with other people? Often we can’t change other people nor can we have their rough edges removed to mitigate their insufferable behavior. Getting people to change for the better is like trying to herd feral cats. So what’s the solution? Romans 15:1 says: “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings and the frailties and the tender scruples of the weak; and not to please ourselves.”
This verse is not a license to feel morally superior to others. In a way, it instructs us to tone down our strong expectations of others. It doesn’t mean we have to be a doormat in order to live a proper Christian life. It does mean patience with others is an essential part of every Christian’s life. Patience is that thing you have when your neighbors host a loud party at midnight and you have to be at work the following day at 6 AM. (And they didn’t even send you an invitation.) As believers, we often have lifestyles that run afoul of the general population. While it would be nice if our neighbors adopted our lifestyle, it’s not likely to happen. Compounding the problem are those individuals with serious emotional or psychological issues that prevent them from living a life of good manners and thoughtfulness towards others. In extreme cases we have little choice but to set boundaries to keep out toxic people.
Most of the time it’s the little affronts that get under our skin and rub our nerves raw. In such cases a healthy dose of I-don’t-care attitude can actually be helpful. This requires a change in attitude on our part. Try it! After a while it starts to feel pretty good . . . and then you can begin to care for people who initially rubbed you the wrong way. We all need practice at this, and it takes a lifetime commitment. Here’s the caveat: before we do anything, we need to examine ourselves with a critical eye to make sure we are not the problem. If we move from church to church, job to job, town to town and we always have conflict with others, well, that’s a good indicator that we are the problem. Once we identify the problem within our self, we can work with God to have it removed. You’ll feel much better after the problem is gone. I promise!