You may remember the birthday par-tay I wrote about in my last post. I needed that particular birthday par-tay to be over in time for me to be out the door at 4:15 so I could make it to my church choir practice at 4:30. I discussed this with Miss Stefanie before agreeing to take the birthday par-tay gig. She assured me they knew they were supposed to be completely done at 4:15, and that I would be able to leave on time.
The birthday party (sorry, I couldn't pull of the par-tay thing anymore) didn't end until 4:25. I practically pushed the family out the door at 4:30.
And I was ticked off. Not at Miss Stefanie, but at the situation. And I'm making a public apology to Miss Stefanie right now, because while I didn't blame her for the incident, I did send her a not-nice text right after the party assuring her that I would NOT be doing any more birthday parties. Basically, I was a jerk.
Sorry, Miss Stefanie. You rock. ...and I'm still not doing anymore birthday parties, but this time I'm not saying it in my "angry voice."
But Sunday afternoon, as I was driving, already late for choir practice, I remember seething about the whole situation. "I'm late!" I told myself. "The people having the party made me late! I agreed to be somewhere else right now, and I had to break a commitment!" Really, it wasn't that big of a deal at all that I showed up 15 minutes late to choir practice, but I felt I had to be justifiably angry about something. So I picked the whole "breaking a commitment thing" because it sounded nice and righteous. Never you mind that I'm often about 5 minutes late just because I have trouble leaving my apartment on time....
Then yesterday, I really wanted to go running. My foot was hurting over the weekend, and so I had decided to rest it until last night. Then last night I was going to start training for my 10K (which is a month from today--yikes!). It was all gonna work out. I wasn't supposed to work last night--I was just "on call" because the mom I work for was "on call." And she hardly ever gets called in. But she did. So I did, too.
And the dad was supposed to be home in time for me to meet with my running group, but then he wasn't. That wasn't his fault and I didn't blame him. It was just that by the time I got off it was too late to meet my running group, and in fact, it was too dark to go run at all.
So I went home with full intentions to get on my elliptical and at least get some exercise. Instead, I threw myself a minor cranky-pants party and ate a few handfuls of candy corn.
I was pouting. I was pouting because things didn't go my way again. And, once again, it was something good that I wanted to do that another obligation prevented me from doing.
And after several minutes of being a cranky-pants, I finally started talking to God. Only I wasn't being very nice about the whole thing. The gist of my prayer was, "God, the stuff I'm wanting to do is good stuff. I wanted to run and start training for that 10K, and I need to do it. You know I need to do it. Why would You allow that to be prevented from happening? This is like the other night when I wanted to be on time for choir practice, and You allowed that to be prevented, too. What's up with that?"
God responded, "Oh, so you're asking me now? I was wondering if you were ever going to get around to that. Yes, I allowed this. I allowed it because you obviously have something to learn from it."
It's been a slow, sometimes painful lesson, but God is gradually teaching me that every single thing that comes my way is filtered through grace. I've said that before on here, and I'll probably say it again. I'm repetitive because that's how I learn. Through repetition. As God's repeating these lessons and themes in my life, they're bound to come up again and again in my blogging.
Everything that comes my way is something God allows. As hard as it is for me to trust, this is a difficult concept to wrap my brain around. If everything seems to be going well, God allows that. If a kid gets snot all over my sweater, while I'm pleading, "Let's not snot Miss Ruth's sweater, please," God allows that. If my brakes start making squeaky noises that lead me to assume I've got even MORE work that needs to be done on my car, God allows that. If hectic life situations prevent me from doing something noble that I really want to do, God allows that. And if God allows it, then God will provide grace to get through it, one way or another.
Please don't think I'm making light of life. I know the examples I listed above might seem really trite and unimportant. Getting snot on my sweater isn't a huge deal. Needing new brakes on my car is a little bit bigger of a deal. But I have no idea what my readers are going through. You might be experiencing a tremendous heartache that doesn't make sense. You might have lost a loved one. You might have found out someone you love has cancer. You might be suffering through another month of unemployment and financial difficulty. You might be struggling with addictions, with anger, with rejection, with fear.
I don't know what you're going through. But I know that God is near to the brokenhearted. And I know that His grace is sufficient. God may or may not have caused whatever issues you're dealing with. Sometimes our pain is the result of our own sin; sometimes it's the result of someone else's sin. Sometimes life just stinks. Whether or not God has caused our pain and problems, He has allowed these things in our lives. Sometimes that's to teach us something; sometimes that's just to bring us closer to what we really need in Him. Honestly, I don't know all the reasons why we have to struggle.
But I firmly believe there is mercy in those struggles. If He's allowed them, He will provide what we need to get through them. It might not be what we expect or desire, but provision will be there.
Everything we encounter is filtered through grace. And lately, the small inconveniences in my life have been opportunities to trust God. They've also been opportunities to love others. And sometimes I fail and sometimes I succeed, but God is faithful to keep teaching me in the midst of all of it.
And I still have no clue where He's leading me, but I know He's changing me. He's preparing me for something that's probably going to take a little bit of flexibility on my part. These little tests He's allowing are preparing me for greater challenges that I'm going to face further down the road. I'm learning. I'm learning to love others even when they've inconvenienced me or even drastically hurt me. I'm learning to trust God even when I can't see rhyme or reason for what's going on in my life. I know I'm not there yet, but right now I'm just overwhelmed that God would love me enough to work on me, to make me more into the person He wants me to be.
Sweater snot happens. Flat tires and bum brakes happen. Heartbreaks happen. Deaths happen. Pain and problems and annoyances and outbursts and bills and illnesses and stress and struggles happen.
There is mercy in the struggle.
Everything is filtered through grace.
Everything is an opportunity to trust God and to love others.
We can't control what other people do to us, but we can choose to love. We can choose to trust and obey. It's not easy, but there's grace for that, too.