Well, it seems that I've been around enough irritating people to give me fuel for many many pages of writing! As I analyzed what was wrong with people I think I basically narrowed it down to one thing: discontent. I would not be far off the mark, because complaining (which is basically the outward display of the inward truth of discontent) was/is SO grievous to God! One of our oft-quoted verses is 'When the people complained the Lord was displeased and He sent a plague among them...' So, I had set out to write a book on the matter of contentment because it seemed the Christian book industry had overlooked this topic. I can understand why. Why market contentment when discontent is what drives buyers to buy? Hence, my blog.
The word happy often can go hand-in-hand with contentment but it seems that spiritual people take offense at the use of 'happy'. 'Oh, happiness is connected to happenings, but we can have joy even if the happenings are bad.' Whatever. I like the word happy and I'm about to redeem it. Further to that I am going to freely use the word unhappy to describe the state of discontent rampant in our culture, and especially in the people that annoy me the most.
If you want to be unhappy, just try to control every aspect of your life! Not only will this cause discord in your earthly relationships but its a sure way to butt heads with God Himself. Let me tell you of one experience I had with control in my life. As with many things pertaining to women, it was in the area of food.
I was 18 years old on a summer missions trip in Nicaragua and Mexico. Now, like most college girls, I was keen to keep my figure at least presentable (oh for a dose of that these days....but I digress). I liked having full control over my diet - I enjoyed our college's salad/pasta/potato/soup bar especially, and I could minimize eating heavy fatty foods from the cafeteria by mainly having salad and veggies. (This is provable because according to my college records I weighed only 5 pounds more on exit than on entry!) I guess I didn't realize I had a control problem until the summer I went on this trip. Even though it wasn't a requirement for the trip they easily could have had us sign a statement that went something like this: 'As a short-term missionary my goal is to be a witness for Christ, to communicate His love to others and to reach out to them in any way that I can. This involves laying down my life for others, giving up all my rights so as to win as many as possible. I hereby sign away the following rights:
- the right to use my time as I wish
- the right to eat the foods that I choose
- the right to eat WHEN I choose and the amount
- the right to keep my body trim and healthy by controlling what I eat.
I relinquish any rights I may have to anything regarding food. This is important because food is such a means of showing acceptance to the people you minister to.
- I give up my right to bathe regularly
- my right to privacy
- my right to a comfortable bed and a good night's sleep
- my rights in general.'
Okay, the list could be more extensive than that, but the last one covers the bases. It would be easy enough to sign such a statement, but much harder to put into practice.
The crises came day after day when I had ongoing gastro-intestinal issues, interspersed with vomiting. A big problem was that I had a milk sensitivity at the time that would cause me to throw up or acted like drain-o on my gut! Every dish they would drizzle (or drench) with a thing called 'crema' - like a heavy cream gone sour. We were told that these people equated food with acceptance - the extent to which you accepted (i.e. ATE) their food - that was the degree to which you accepted them. Therefore, if you were to leave anything on your pre-served (i.e. no portion control here!) plate, that meant you did not fully accept the people. (I am just so grateful I didn't end up going to some other far out place where we might have to eat cockroaches, snakes or other such delicacies!) A few times I had to excuse myself before I hurled in front of everyone (NOT a good time to have a weak stomach) - and I began to lament the fact that the food I was having to consume was fatty, unhealthy and would ruin my figure and general well-being. I had lost the entire rights to my diet. (This was a huge blow to me - it affected me so much that twice on the trip I had panic attacks - unexplained occurrences of hyperventilation that came up at the oddest times - it could have been due to other stresses as well...)
I had to learn to shovel spicy food, cream doused food, abundant food, sometimes tasty food, sometimes questionable food, into my mouth and swallow before it could burn, gag or sit on my tastebuds. I had to learn to expand my waistline to accomodate another plate of food just two hours after a feast at one location, (after having lunch one day we visited some others who wanted to feed us too - and refusing would be offensive so we had to gobble up - yum yum!)
It was a crisis for me because I had no control over my diet or even my own body. I could argue that maybe I could have just told them how sick I would get eating this food and that it didn't sit well with my stomach. But that would have put MY desires above theirs. It would have communicated non-acceptance. It would not have been Christlike. He gave up all His rights as a King to be born in a smelly stable, to live and die in abject humiliation.
And here I was resisting giving up my rights to an enjoyable diet. Not even to mention that ninety percent of the world would have been grateful for a bite to eat, and here I was 'suffering for Jesus' by shovelling mounds of food into my already well-fed body.
Going through this experience helped me to see that any time I think I'm in control, God must laugh. I am so deceived to think I have control of anything. My very next breath is dependent upon the sustaining grace and loving will of my Heavenly Father. He keeps my heart beating and all the functions of my body working - and I am a fool to think I am the master of my life.
I titled this 'Don't be a control freak - Trust God' because any time I trust in anyone else (mostly myself) I have been miserable and sorely disappointed. Knowing that God IS in control is a great assurance to me that I CAN trust Him, for He will only do what's best.
'Oh, for grace to trust Him more!'