Do you have something in your house that has been broken for years, but you’ve just gotten used to it?
That’s how we’ve been with the ceiling fans in several of the rooms in our house. Over the years they had quit working for one reason or another. The one in our bedroom still turned, but years ago the glass globe had fallen off and shattered on the blanket chest, leaving the bare bulb staring down at me each morning during my devotional time on the bed. In the computer room, the fan rattled so much that it sounded like a helicopter taking off, so I seldom used it. And the one in our son’s room didn’t even come on and hadn’t in ten years or so.
I don’t tend to notice inconveniences like these. I have my mind on what I’m writing, when I’m going to work in a run, what we’re having for dinner, whether I have anything ironed to wear that day, or what’s going to happen next on Stranger Things. I had gotten used to the bare bulb in the bedroom and the lack of moving air in Adam’s room, which is my bedroom when Keith wakes me up snoring. And Keith could care less about any of this.
But we just had some work done (finally) on the outside of the house and Adam made a request. Would we please get the fan in his room fixed before he and Jess came home for Thanksgiving? I work much better with a deadline, so Keith called the electrician and in about a week – voila – we now have working ceiling fans in all the rooms in our house!
I didn’t realize how much the bare bulb hanging down in our bedroom had bothered me until we got it replaced. Each time I looked up at that bulb, it would prick my subconscious. Need to get that fixed. Same when I went into Adam’s room and had to fumble for a lamp because the overhead switch didn’t work. Need to fix that. I’ll get around to it, leave me alone, I would reply to my subconscious. But the anxiety over those little things would be there, gnawing at me.
I’ve thought this week about how the small things make a difference in my spiritual life also. That burst of anger at some injustice to myself, real or perceived, that spills out in a catty remark. The impatience with the fumbling store clerk. The gossip and criticism I partake in of someone who is struggling. These seemingly small things gnaw at my conscience, pulling me away from where God wants me.
Wayne Oates, one of my spiritual heroes, wrote a sermon on “The Struggle for Maturity”, reprinted in A Pastoral Prophet, a book of his sermons edited by William Tuck. He concludes a wonderful explanation of 1st Corinthians 13 with this line:
Mature Christians are always searching their relationships to others and testing their knowledge of God with others….Their speaking, their prophecy, their understanding, and their faith and works are all set into a new contextual meaning of the love of God. (p. 74)
Notice Dr. Oates says we as mature Christians should always be examining our relationships. Just as my house needs constant work to stay clean and comfortable, my spiritual house needs vigilance. I need to strive each day for the ways in which I am not living in love. I need to be coming before the Lord and asking Him to show me where I’m slipping. Like the broken ceiling fans in my house, I get so used to acting in unloving ways that I don’t even notice it anymore. It gets hidden under the clutter of my life.
The Psalmist prays:
God, see what is in my heart.
Know what is there.
Know what I’m thinking.
See if there’s anything in my life you don’t like.
Help me live in the way that is always right.
(Psalm 139:23-24, NRIV)
The beauty of saying this prayer every day is that God starts showing me people from His point of view. Instead of an inept store clerk, I see a young woman who has been on her feet for twelve hours. Instead of getting angry at the coworker who asks for something at the last minute, I see someone who is working hard and juggling too many responsibilities. Instead of gossiping and tearing others down behind their backs, I begin praying for them and doing what I can to build them up.
Just like the satisfaction of knowing that my ceiling fans are all functioning, I feel less anxious when I let go of the little irritations that build up. As I turn these over to God, I feel His love flowing through me toward those around me. And my conscience is a little quieter.