I had a bad day last Wednesday. First of all, it was raining. That wouldn’t have been bad except for the adverse affect it had on the 91. A trip that takes me 30 minutes in light traffic took me a hair over 2.5 hours. The 91 near the 60 interchange (not a happy place under the best of conditions) was down to one lane because of flooding. That’s an average of 10.4 mi/hr for the entire trip, in case you were wondering. I actually pulled out my current book, Dune, and read several pages during the worst sections.
Then, 4% of my Software Engineering grade went down the toilet. Technically, this happened the day before when I forgot to electronically submit a paper which I had written over the weekend until a few hours after it was due. But I e-mailed the prof and asked if I would be getting any credit for it, and I got the negative answer when I got to work. Completely my fault, but still frustrating.
Then, on the way home, I found a parking ticket on my windshield. My registration tags are expired. The DMV was really quick about cashing our check, but never bothered to send us the new tags. And that will entail wading though the bureaucracy of the DMV and San Bernardino parking patrol to fix up.
Finally, I got home (thankfully, the 91 was empty, so this took me just 30 minutes). You might imagine that I was not in the best of moods. Anyway, Emily and I were sitting together on the couch, and she made a comment about a hole in one of my socks. I snapped at her (something about not having enough socks as it was). You might think this is funny, but at the time it wasn’t. We sat there in silence for a few minutes, and then she got up to make a salad for dinner. I sat alone on the couch, reading a paper for class the next day and feeling sorry for myself. And then I remembered something: there is only one God, and everything comes from Him.
This will require a little bit of background. November of my Junior year at Biola, Norm Wakefield gave a Torrey Men’s retreat. It was phenomenal. If you are interested in how to be a good husband and father (particularly of boys, though he has some good things to say about raising daughters as well if you filter out the over-protectiveness), I can’t recommend him highly enough. Anyway, I recently listened to a tape series of his, which I bought during the retreat but then shelved. The moral of one of his talks was this: There is only one God, one Source, and everything comes from him. This is incredibly powerful if you can actually manage to live as if it is true... it gives you an entirely new perspective on the events of life. Let me explain.
We know that Jesus is constantly making intercession for us. What, exactly, is Jesus praying for? That we might become more like Himself. Now, if everything comes from God, and Jesus is constantly praying that we might be made more like Himself, and the Father always answers Christ’s prayers, then absolutely everything that happens to us is a result of Christ’s intercession, and is therefore intended to make us more like Christ.
As an example of how this works, Norm held a cup of water in his hand, and had a volunteer come shake his arm. Naturally, water spilled everywhere. Why did the water get everywhere? Usually people say “because the volunteer shook Norm’s arm.” But the real reason is because there was water in the cup. The lesson is this: the trials of life show you who you really are. When you are shaken, what comes out is what you are filled with. Jesus wants to clean out the pride and ugliness inside you, and fill you with Himself. How is He going to do that? Well, one of the main ways is to show you what’s really inside yourself by shaking you up. People like to blame their bad attitudes on their circumstances, but this is just because they are afraid to acknowledge that what comes out in times of trial shows who they really are.
This has application for everything you do, and it forces you to always examine your responses to your circumstances. What bubbles to the top when someone cuts you off? Is it “I can’t believe he did that! How dare he cut me off”? Or is it Jesus? What comes out when you are stuck in traffic? Is it anger that your plans are being delayed? Or is it Jesus? In both cases, Jesus is shaking you up a little so that you can see what is in your heart. And He is going to keep shaking you, until nothing but Jesus comes out.
As I was sitting on the couch sulking, I remembered all of this.. and suddenly my whole day came into perspective. I was not the victim of a harsh, cruel joke. And my sour mood, my snapping at emily, was not the fault of my circumstances. It was an indication of what I was filled with, who I was. God had used this entire, rotten day to shake my cup – to show me through a relatively minor trial just what comes out when I am shaken. And it was not Jesus. So I got up, walked over to emily, and apologized for taking out my frustration on her, for allowing my circumstances to dictate my actions. She forgave me, and the rest of the evening was great.
The point of all this is that you should look at everything that happens to you as an opportunity to become more like Jesus, because it is.