He was sitting at the end of the kitchen table, looking out the window, lips pursed, the hint of a frown crinkling his forehead.
“What’s the matter?” I asked. I scanned my brain for the myriad things I had done recently that could be construed as problematic for my husband.
“Nothing, really. I’m just annoyed in general,” he conceded after a moment’s hesitation. He knows that I won’t let his brooding go for long. Sooner or later I would drag a confession out of him. It’s just how it works around here, and sooner is always better.
Work, traffic, reentry into our family’s buzzing hive after being gone on a business trip; these are the things that pepper his life with difficulties that I don’t experience. I don’t blame him for being annoyed, most days. But he probably just needs to get over it. It’s hard to be the king, I snarkily thought.
I was driving on a four lane highway and my lane was ending. There were cars in the lane beside me, but I had just enough room to get over. I judged my speed against theirs and sped up to get in the front of the line. At once, the car behind me in the opposite lane sped up to prevent me from merging; I slammed on my brakes to avoid colliding with the traffic cones that appeared much too quickly ahead. Swerving into the lane behind the offending car, I noticed that the driver was talking on her cellphone. She should have let me in! I leaned on my horn to get her attention, and promptly flipped her off.
I had never done that before; I am usually a Zen master on the road. When I got home I was still mad. I decided that I was better off staying inside for the rest of the day, where it was unlikely that anybody else would bother me.
Most days, my husband and I can find contentment with how life is going. But sometimes, one thing falls out of place and the whole rhythm of life is thrown off. Usually other people are involved. Often, they live within the walls of our home.
When these things happen, it’s easy to brood or lash out. These are our favorite reactions, honed from years of practice. It’s harder to be at peace when things go haywire, to give our troubles to God, ask for help, and move on with life.
We are human, after all. We desire compensation. We want the last word and personal justice.
My husband and I are Christians. We know what Jesus says about godly living, forgiveness, how to reconcile with others. We know that in Christ, we can be content. One of my favorite Bible verses has to do with living at peace with others, for Pete’s sake.
At the core of our desire, we want to be centered, at peace. The ungodly reactions come when we want to be the center again.
When I reacted harshly to the woman who cut me off on the road, I was angry at her not yielding to me. When my husband sat in silent annoyance, he was mad because things weren’t going his way. In the moment, neither of us thought that there was anything we might be doing wrong, that there was a lesson to learn from our experience.
When we rest in Christ, we see our lives as part of God’s plan, his hand firmly and lovingly in charge. We may suffer rejection and maltreatment, misunderstanding and injustice, but God is always on our side. We can be annoyed or hurt and angry at the actions of others, pointing fingers and sniffing out sin with upturned noses, or we can cease being part of the world’s machine and be elevated by the Spirit.
We will get through this life in one way or another. Why not keep Jesus at the center of our lives, and look to him for help?
Dear Lord, please help me to be more content in you.
Help us all to see that you are in charge. Amen.