I learned this lesson a few summers ago at Kanakuk when I thought it would be a good idea to pray for a sense of humor. Not five minutes later I encountered the worst toilet clog of my life, and because I was a Unit Coordinator (aka Kamp’s go-to person for tasks that no one wants to do), it was my job to plunge it. I’ll spare you the gory details, but it may or may not have involved a live cockroach. Sick nasty.
Then there was that time during my junior year of high school when I made the mistake of praying for humility. The next day as I was running terribly late (as always) for my first hour English class, I somehow managed to stab myself up my nose with the wrong end of a mechanical pencil. When I hobbled into class with blood gushing out of my very sore nose and a very embarrassed look on my face, all my classmates just shook their heads and laughed. Talk about humbling… or just humiliating.
This summer, I’ve been praying that God would grow me in new and substantial ways. For the last several years, my time working at Kanakuk has been an integral part of my spiritual development. When the Lord didn’t call me back to Kamp this summer, my first thought was, “Oh no! How am going to grow this summer?!” Hence, I’ve been asking God to mold, shape, and refine me, even though I’m not at Kamp. I’ve also been praying for inspiration for another blog post. Today God answered both of my prayers simultaneously, and I’m pretty sure I could hear Him laughing.
The day was doomed for disaster even before I walked out the door. Instead of going with my gut (and with the weather forecast), I decided to trust my own temperature gauge and went with jeans instead of a skirt. By the time I made it to the bus stop half a mile away, I was sweating like a pig, and my fitted gray t-shirt (another poor wardrobe choice) made sure that everyone could see it. Whoops. It would only get worse from there.
This would be a good time to let you know that I’m in Pittsburgh this summer attempting to learn Polish—emphasis on the word “attempting.” More accurately, I am getting my backside kicked by the Polish language for 6 hours a day, 5 days a week. While my coming to Pitt and participating in this program is an answer to many prayers, that’s another story entirely. So in the interest of time and space, we will return to the original story about my day.
On Tuesdays, the Summer Language Institute provides inexpensive pizza for students to buy for lunch. However, instead of distributing the pizza at a convenient, central location (i.e., the building where ALL language students have class), the directors decided to set up shop at a different building about a five minute walk away. Normally, this wouldn’t have been a problem; however, they failed to publicly announce this decision. And because I needed to use the restroom, I got separated from my classmates and had no idea where to go. This meant that I searched in vain for pizza on multiple floors of the 36-story Cathedral of Learning before finding out where I needed to go. By the time I finished the Pitt edition of “Stairmaster 300” and then hiked across campus and back, my pizza was cold and my gray t-shirt was sweaty yet again. Yippee.
But this afternoon definitely took the cake… and ate it too. After class let out at 2:50 (I feel like a high school student again. Eek), I made a detour to the library to return a book. Five minutes later, I reached the bus stop at 5th and Bigelow just as both buses I could have taken pulled away, one after the other. In theory, the buses should come every fifteen minutes, but in reality, they come when they feel like it, if at all. 25ish minutes later, I hopped on the 71A and rode it to ALDI, where I planned to finish shopping in time to catch the next bus. But—de ja vu—I walked out of the store only to watch it drive away. Moving my groceries into the shade, I waited… and waited… and waited… and waited….
……………………… and waited…………………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………and waited for a bus that never came.
With my milk and ground turkey now fifty-five minutes warmer, I rolled up my pant legs and started walking. I’d made it 0.5 of the 1.6 miles home when a bus (a different one; I still don’t know what happened to the 71A) picked me up and took me to my neighborhood. Finally, at 5:36 p.m., bedraggled, smelly, and with a shirt now in various shades of gray, I arrived at home. What. A. Day.
At some point this afternoon (maybe when I was waiting for the bus the first time), my prayer for the summer popped into my mind, and all I could think was, “Dang, have I got a long way to go before I become like Jesus.”
It was just a bunch of small things—wearing the wrong clothes, missing the bus(es), having to walk across campus for pizza—but that’s all it took for me to get frustrated, annoyed, and more than a little bit ticked off. Now I’m not saying that frustration, annoyance, and anger are inherently sinful; emotions and feelings are a normal part of being human. However, just like a bruise is an outward sign of broken blood vessels, so can frustration be symptomatic of sin deeper down inside of us. Given the right (or wrong) circumstances, this inward sin will manifest itself on the outside. This afternoon, God gave me a glimpse of my inward ugliness, and it wasn’t a pretty sight.
You see, I like to be in control of my life, to make things go according to my timetable and schedule; I call myself “responsible” and “mature.” But whether I choose to admit it or not, the truth is that I really want to be the god of my own miniature universe, where everything revolves around me and my convenience. When something goes against my plan and the rubber meets the road—or the buses fail to come down the road—I get angry and frustrated and upset. Days like today reveal the giant gap between my “Jesus is Lord” lip service and my actual life service. How often I return to humanity’s major pit-Fall and seek equality with God. Lord, have mercy on me.
All that to say, today turned out nothing like I expected, and I would have definitely never chosen it for myself. But as much as it stunk in the moment (and I literally stink as a result), I’m very thankful for it. Because as unpleasant and frustrating as today was, I know that God used it to make me more like Jesus. Even when I mess up, I can rest in the knowledge that His grace is sufficient, and He’s not giving up on me. So I’ll keep praying for Him to refine me, even though it means I’ll probably have more days like today.
… besides, it still seems a lot safer than asking for a sense of humor. 😉