The other day I walked in the house from work. The last two hours of my day had been spent at an after school program trying to harness the energy of middle school students into productive activities, students who after a very long day of school really just want to relax, joke with one another and run around outside. I was tired.
Enough with the passive whining. I walked in the house and it was a mess. Toys haphazardly strewn about by my children who are committed to playing with a single toy for about as long as you’d expect a cowboy to ride an angry bull.
My wife was hurriedly packing up a meal she had prepared for a family in our neighborhood. She also had things strewn about in the kitchen, but for a much more noble cause.
And I could feel it coming over me. A frustration rising up from an expectation of walking into a serene, organized home, where my children would be sitting quietly with one toy to entertain them, my wife would have dinner already prepared for our family and dishes would be cleaned.
Out the door my wife went to deliver the dinner.
And I did what I do sometimes when that feeling happens. I frantically picked up things all around me and put them in their rightful place. Shoes in their respective shoe bins. Wrappers and used paper towels in the trash can. Dirty dishes in the sink. And with each item, I began to regain a little bit of emotional stability.
That is, until my boys spilled a carton of milk. I know there’s a saying about that, but it really did happen, and it happened in between the range and the cabinets - right down in that little crevice. And I yelled, in ways I’m sure didn’t make much sense to them, but certainly made me feel some release. By the time my wife returned I was quietly rage-cleaning the mess.
When I rage clean, I am sometimes impractical about it, because I’m more focused on the raging than the practicality of the task. So she helped me, and in the process, became emotional herself. She could sense my frustration, and she felt the pressure of trying to do a really kind thing for another family, but also trying to make me happy after a long day of work.
I could go on, but let’s just pause and consider the scene for a moment. I think my response was very human, but I’m not so proud of it. I responded out of an expectation that wasn’t appropriate to the moment.
I had options. I could have acknowledged my family with some display of joy since I hadn’t seen them all day. I could have verbally and practically acknowledged the kind act my wife was doing for another family. I could have included my children and made a game out of picking up the house.
Do you ever wish you could step outside of yourself into some objective, rational person and respond to a chaotic moment with just the right amount of reason? Maybe you already do. Sometimes I don’t.
The Bible reminds us to be reasonable in our responses to moments that might otherwise make us respond irrationally in a damaging way.
Paul reminds the Philippians, “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The LORD is at hand” (Phil. 4:5). It’s as if we are to put being reasonable (other translations, gentle) on display in moments where circumstances might emotionally provoke us to some unhealthy behavior.
And I don’t think we can chalk this one up to personality. We are encouraged to develop the spiritual fortitude to ‘rejoice always’ as the previous verse communicates. We are challenged to ‘be anxious for nothing’ as the following verse reminds us.
And how? Prayer and thanksgiving are the formula. They offer us a peace that surpasses all understanding. What a testimony to our LORD to have peace in moments when it doesn’t otherwise make sense!
But it’s not automatic. It comes on the other side of a decision to actually pray. Prayer gives us a better perspective every time because it moves us to set our mind on things above, which helps us to think more properly about the things before us.
The scene I described above is surely not too uncommon. There are so many small moments when we have options that we don’t always invite the LORD into because they seem petty or they sneak up on us. But, in faith, let us be vigilant to consider the LORD, rejoice, pray and give thanks in each moment and watch the LORD do something powerful before us.