The Set Up: It was a stressful week at work, one of several. I felt the stress level rising, could see the signs, but thought I could handle it. I prayed. I meditated. But none of it touched my heart where it made a difference, except for maybe an hour or so. Even my dreams were stressful and work related.
The Added Crises: A job interview with a long back story, which had me in tears a year ago, resurfaced. It was going to take all of my courage to face the new challenge, and in spite of my newly developed strategy of concentrating on God's will and not mine, in spite of everything I learned and practiced this last year, I was caving in to fear and anxiety. However, I had not yet crossed the line to misbehavior - until the final straw: the coffee pot. Don't laugh. It isn't funny - yet. Maybe tomorrow, maybe next week or month - or maybe next year.
The Final Straw: I decided to take a rare Saturday and not bother fixing my hair or putting on make up. I remained in comfy clothes, relaxing and trying to recoup my physical and emotional reserves. It worked until that evening.
With all the stress, my craving for carbohydrates has increased. I have fought the craving, remaining true to my oath to reduce my intake in order to lose weight and eat healthy. Recently I discovered a fresh cup of coffee would diffuse my desire to dip into the crackers, the bread or the sweets, and there was something emotionally comforting about the hot beverage as well.
I went into the kitchen to make a cup of coffee and discovered the brewer flashing the word, Decalcify. Groaning, I dug out the instruction booklet and read the warnings and the steps. The instructions stated ignoring the decalcify warning was like disregarding the add oil light on the car.
It was seven o'clock in the evening and one of the few TV shows I enjoy was due to come on, and that night was the one episode I truly wanted to watch. Our Brittany, Scout had shown some disturbing aggression toward me earlier that week which was very unusual for him, and for the breed in general. That night the program, The Dog Whisperer, was actually going discuss the same behavior issue, and I really wanted to watch the segment.
Now, back to the coffee pot. As you well know, to decalcify a brewer takes time. I was willing to forgo my coffee with the program, but if I wanted coffee in the morning, I had to clean the brewer that night. We had no vinegar, which meant a trip to the store.
The Final, Final, Straw: My husband said, "Do what ever you want." No offer to assist, or at least go to the store so I didn't have to go through the fifteen or twenty minute ritual of get dressed, going out, and missing my program. I stewed while the clock ticked. And then it happened. I snapped.
Granted, I didn't say a word to my husband, but I didn't have to. My body language screamed plenty loud as I stomped into the living room, turned off the TV, stomped into the bedroom and dressed, which of course included a touch of make up (eye brows, which my vanity will not allow me to be seen in public without), pulling my unsightly hair into a ponytail, putting on a baseball cap to hide still unsightly hair, fussing with socks and shoes, and finally stomping out the door to the car.
Momentary Pause: There were other options available, but I saw nothing except red, refusing to stop and think a moment. That's about when things got a little worse.
Back to the Final, Final Straw: After following all of the instructions, including leaving the brewer soaking over night, I rose at 5:30 am, ran the machine through all the suggested rinse cycles - and the machine still flashed decalcify.
The instructions stated if the build up is bad enough, it may take two cleanings for the machine to work. I bought only one bottle of white vinegar the previous night. Now, I had to repeat the whole process of getting dressed, going to the store and then cleaning the machine, all at 6:00 am on a Sunday morning. Nuclear explosion is a mild description. Added to all of that, my husband was still blissfully sleeping, which was good - and bad.
To assuage some of my anger, I decided to purchase a cup off coffee at the grocery cafe and at least have a small Sunday indulgence. It was not to be. Their machine was in the process of being cleaned and there wasn't any coffee available. I eschewed driving further in search of that now very elusive cup of coffee, took my vinegar and went home.
I repeated the cleaning process, save the hour long soak. Then, finally at 7:15 am, over twelve hours since whole drama began, I had a cup of coffee. And you know what? It didn't taste good. My anger and resentment left such a bitter taste in my mouth I couldn't enjoy my hard earned cup of coffee.
It was at this point God grabbed this rebellious child by the ear, sat her down, shook His finger at her and said, "Listen!"
My devotional, Good Morning, Lord, by Joseph T Sullivan pointed out that God could punish us immediately for our sins, but He doesn't. He is patient, lovingly waiting for us to stop stubbornly insisting on having our own way. How dare we refuse to be repentant, making God wait on us. When we finally do return as prodigal sons and daughters, He receives us with outstretched arms. The author added a final note and prayer: it takes time to become a loving person, and "Lord, reach out and touch me."
I lowered my head and mumbled, "Amen."
God wasn't through with me just yet.
My second devotional reading emphasized how precious and precarious human life is. We must respect and nurture that life, ours and others'. My behavior only nurtured my selfishness and anger at not getting my own way.
The chastisement continued in my next reading, St. James 3: 17 - 4:3:
For where envying and contention is, there is inconsistency, and every evil work. But the wisdom, that is from above, first indeed is chaste, then peaceable, modest, easy to be persuaded, consenting to the good, full of mercy and good fruits, without judging, without dissimulation. And the fruit of justice is sown in peace, to them that make peace.
St. James goes on to admonish those who war and offer contentions among themselves due to concupiscences - basically selfishness, giving into strong desires for something other than God. Ouch.
My readings went on with Mark 9:30-34. The disciples argued among themselves as to who should be the greatest, and Jesus told them: If any man desire to be first, he shall be the last of all, and the minister of all. Double ouch.
Streams in the Desert emphasized we can have plenty of grace coming in, but if we do not share it, planning our life around greater service, being a blessing to those around us, then we will find our spirits uncertain and troubled [or angry?]. Triple ouch.
The Moral of the Story: His outstretched arms. Even though I have misbehaved, acting out after being tested with some stress and inconvenience, He received my contrite heart with open arms. He gave me forgiveness, and strength and courage to step up to the plate and try again. He is indeed the God of second, third, and endless chances. Amen. AMEN.