Learn - It's Not All About Me
Learn - It’s Not All About Me|
You shall love your neighbor as yourself. NASU
Part of loving my neighbor as myself is being aware of and caring about how others are reacting to life, no matter what is going on with me. On every Pocket Full of Quarter’s Journey so far, God has spent the first week or two teaching me some kind of spiritual lesson that I will need later in the journey. During this “learning” period, I’ve noticed that He sends few is any evangelistic assignments for me. I guess He has figured out how stressful learning spiritual lessons can be.
If you read the post on July 5th, you’ll see that God gave me a lesson on being self absorbed and thinking only about myself. I took responsibility, wrote about it, and thought I’d learned the lesson. Unfortunately, just a day later, I was making everything all about me once again.
What a week it had been! We’d driven 2,000 miles, entertained 20 people, and I’d taped 2 television shows. Could it only have been 6 days ago that we left home? This day proved to be as packed as every other day. “Our” plans for the day were:
1. For me to be a guest on Jacksonville’s live Praise the Lord Show.
2. For Bob to baby sit for Noah while our son and daughter-in-law went for the sonogram to find out the sex of our second grandchild.
3. For Bob to get his annual dermatologist appointment.
4. For Noah to spend the afternoon playing with me.
5. For Bob and me to meet home late in the afternoon to re-pack Halleluiah.
6. To host a small evening dinner party at our condominium.
You may be thinking this is a busy day after too busy a week but I had it all plugged into my computer and the timing worked out perfectly. My mentor is always telling me to plan empty spaces in my calendar but I haven’t seemed to learn that concept yet either.
The day started out well. Remembering the stress of almost being late the day before, I was early for this television show. I had learned from my mistake on the previous day and arrived at the studio determined to focus on others instead of me. In fact, I noticed and spoke to everyone as I entered and someone even commented that I glowed with the Holy Spirit.
I almost wept as I responded, “When I’m on the road, I only have a moment with people. I want them to see God and not me. I pray every morning that the light of the Holy Spirit will be so bright that people will be attracted to it. You couldn’t have given me a better compliment.”
I love doing live shows because they engage my adrenaline. I get the entire effect. The bright lights are electrifying. The music interludes help me to worship and prepare for the next segment. Knowing people are listening at the very moment I am speaking helps me focus. On this particular show, we took communion and invited the audience to participate. It was quite moving.
My spirits soared when someone in the studio told me that I was like God’s swat team. She said that when regular measures didn’t get someone’s attention, God sends me in. I left the studio walking on spiritual air. On the way home, family members called to say how well the show went. I expected the car to sprout wings at any moment.
The phone rang again. It was Chris calling to say my next grandchild was a girl. Little Ava was whirling and twirling (was it to early for me to put a baton in her hand) in her mommy’s tummy as they watched her on the television.
"A girl," I screamed as I began to cry. “Our family hasn’t produced one of those in 49 years. I wasn’t sure we could actually still produce girls. Good job Chris!” My daughter is adopted. Bob and I only birthed one son. My brother produced two boys and Bob’s sister had two boys. Bob’s sister was the last girl anyone had birthed.
A girl, I prayed after I hung up. Thank you.
I rushed home and Bob and I did the “Noah handoff.” He rushed out to his doctor’s appointment, Noah settled happily with his trains, and I started washing the 4 loads of dirty laundry.
Wait a minute, I whined to God. I thought I was going to play with Noah. I felt the still small voice remind me that I needed clean clothes if I planned to leave town the next day.
It was so hard not to tell three-year-old Noah about his sister but I knew it was his mommy and daddy’s job to give the news. Noah stopped his playing a moment and said, “Mommy and daddy are going to get the baby out today.”
I looked at him and said, “No honey, that’s not today.”
He looked confused for a moment, shook his head, and then nodded as if he’d remembered. “They are going to look at pictures and find out if it is a girl or a boy.”
“Yes,” I said. “You’ll know today if you are going to have a sister or a brother. What do you think it is?” I probed.
“A girl,” he said confidently. “Her name will be Ava.” Noah had insisted it would be a girl all along.
About that time the phone rang. “Cheryle, I’m going to be late. I’m stuck by the side of the road.”
“Why” I said. “What happened?”
“I hit a curb and blew out two tires.” Bob was driving our “new to us” little Mazda, which we leave at the beach.
“Bob, I said startled. “Are you ok?”
“Yes, I was watching some buildings and forgot to watch the road. It turned and I didn’t.”
“Are you safe and off the road?” I asked quickly.
“Yes,” he said.
“Thank God,” I said. “You could have been hurt.” Gratitude washed over me.
I think my next question insulted him. “Were you reading e-mail on your phone?”
“No,” he said huffily. “My phone wasn’t even out.” I wondered if an attractive woman had walked by and distracted him but didn’t voice that question.
“Can I come get you?” I asked.
“No,” he said. “I’ve called AAA. Besides, I have the car seat.”
All of a sudden, I remembered our packed day. My spiritually filled balloon popped with a loud bang as I realized we didn’t have time for a car accident.
“How am I going to get to the grocery store for tonight? I need another steak!” I said in a panic. “I was going to ask you to do it when you get home. You and I were supposed to pack the camper from 4-6. I have a book signing tomorrow morning at 10:00 in St. Augustine and can’t have another late night. How is it all going to get done?”
“I don’t know,” he said dejectedly. “I wondered the same thing.”
Suddenly, I realized the demon of “self absorption” had attacked again. I hadn’t learned as much yesterday as I’d thought. Poor Bob was embarrassed about the accident. He was sitting broken down in a hot car waiting on a tow truck. He could have been injured. I hadn’t even asked how his doctor’s appointment went.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “Let me know what you need. I’ll figure out the food for tonight’s party. The camper will get loaded. How was your doctor’s appointment?”
“I was fine,” he said. “Everything was normal.”
Poor Bob’s day went from bad to worse. After an hour of waiting, instead of a tow truck, AAA sent someone in a pick up truck to help him change a tire. Bob had been clear that he only had one spare and two popped tires and needed a tow truck. He sent the pick up truck home, called AAA again, and started in the queue all over. He arrived home exhausted at exactly the same time as our friends. He’d just found out that in addition to the destroyed tires, he was going to need new rims. To make matters worse, we were going to have to leave tomorrow with our Mazda still in the shop.
Bob got in gear and cooked the steaks over the grill. My son and daughter-in-law arrived to tell Noah the news of Ava. He jumped up and down and cheered and we all watched the sonogram. We invited our kids to join our dinner party and what I thought was a steak shortage managed to feed 3 more people. I burned most of the dinner but no one complained. We enjoyed our guests and stayed up late yet another night to pack the camper. We got on the road early the next morning for the next leg of the 2007 Pocket Full of Quarter’s journey. In my morning prayer, I asked God to help me remember that everything in life isn’t all about me. I thought I’d finally learned the lesson until I sat down to write this story.
I was writing the final paragraph, smugly implying I’d learned the lesson, when a depressed Bob called. I was in a writing zone and the phone startled me. It took a minute to clear my head.
“The bad news just keeps coming. It must really come in groups,” he said. Bob likes to stretch a story out in a dramatic way but the word “bad news” had scared me and I was in no mood to wait.
“Bob,” I instructed. “Please get to the point. You’re scaring me.” In my defense, I’d driven 5 hours, gotten lost in New Jersey, had fought the heat to get Halleluiah level so the refrigerator would work, had unloaded Halleluiah into a New Jersey hotel (there were no campgrounds) and had been writing and putting pictures out for several hours. I was exhausted.
“OK,” he said. “We just got a letter from the condominium. They are giving us a $7,500 assessment for cost overrun on the balcony repairs." I let the news settle over me. These ministry trips are expensive and we’d already been worried about money. When we bought the condominium in January, we knew they were doing repairs but the former owner had already paid the assessment. This new assessment was a surprise.
Bob went on. “They said they knew that some people couldn't pay it all at once so they are giving us 3 months to pay it. In addition, our credit card is changing our number – you know – the one we have memorized and that is attached to so many automatic payments. It will be a pain to change everything. It seems as if someone stole the credit card’s database and they are changing everyone’s number. I can’t even look on line to see if there has been any activity. They’ve shut everyone out.”
I was silent. This was too much to deal with as tired as I was. This story wasn’t finished but I was. Without answering Bob, I shut down my computer. “I’m going to bed,” I said.
“But I thought you weren’t finished with your story,” he said.
“I can’t write any more after that news,” I retorted.
“Should I not have told you?” he asked.
“You could have waited until I called to tell you I was finished writing,” I snapped.
“What was your story about?” he asked.
Suddenly, I felt sheepish. It had happened again. My poor husband was calling me with news that had upset him. He needed comfort and encouragement. I had only thought about how I was feeling. Loving my neighbor as myself starts with loving my husband. “I’m writing a story about my lesson on self absorption.”
He went to laughing. “I’m sorry I interrupted your story but I’m betting when you finally finish this story it will be much better.”
I knew he’d understood the irony and that God was working heard to teach me something. Bob is always gracious when I apologize. He’s admitted that he likes it when I have to apologize because it gives him a few in the bank.
So, I’m finishing this story, knowing that while everything isn’t all about me, I still might have a few lessons to go in order to really learn the concept. What I do know is that I strongly desire to love my neighbor so much that I am able to put their needs ahead of my own.