His Love Never Fails (even when we do)...
I can’t even begin to explain my evening the other night. (And this is another post where you’re going to see how irrational my mind can be (and typically is))…
Let me set the scene: It was Sunday; I’d skipped Sunday school (not typical for me) (however I did watch two shows on Biblical teaching programs on TV in lieu). I went home after church and did some work (and was feeling pretty good about myself getting ahead of the week on work). I made/ate dinner, and went to a Sunday evening service (which I never do- my church doesn’t do Sunday evening service) with friends to hear my friend speak. Fast forward to twenty minutes after the service: I got stuck in traffic on the interstate for four hours due to a large accident involving multiple tractor trailer trucks and vehicles.
The interstate sign flashed a warning of 'be prepared to stop', but that's nothing new (think of ‘boy who cried wolf’). And by the time I came upon it there was nowhere to detour. So there I sat. At first, I thought nothing of it. I figured I was detained for 20 or 30 minutes, so I chilled out. It was one of those moments that I knew there was nothing I could do about it, so I might as well make the most of it. I checked email, Facebook, made phone calls- anything and everything I could think of on my phone. I turned my car off after 10 minutes. Twenty minutes after that, frustration began to present itself. I saw the ambulance fly by me almost immediately after I was stopped. The wrecker truck came whizzing by twenty minutes after that. My (lack of) patience was wearing extremely thin, and I assumed that one lane would open shortly. (wrong)
After 45 minutes, it became very apparent I was going to be there for a while (when the big trucks around you shut down- you know you’re in for a wait). And I can testify that on an old smartphone, an hour goes quickly. But the ancient technology only exhausted me. Once again, my (lack of) patience just couldn’t withstand constant uploading, and shutting down. My phone case has been chewed by my dog, so certain letters don’t register well when I try to type. Apps don’t load quickly, if at all. And the battery drains extremely too quickly. (And side note, the charger in my car works when it wants, and can’t be touched or it quits). Typically I would have had my iPad with me for church- but I didn't know if the church I was visiting would be accepting of it, so I left it home. If I had it, I could’ve done a lot more (I had a long-running (mental) list of things I could’ve been doing if I’d had it).
Well after the hour mark, and still no sight of any relief, my mind went into overdrive. I began talking to God. (I’d like to acknowledge that upon first stopping in the traffic I did say a prayer for those involved in the accident, as well as those responding to it; and thanked Him for allowing me to miss it). But at this point, I was all over the board. I kept thanking Him for His grace in me missing the accident; I prayed for those involved once again. I thanked Him for the warm weather (though it undoubtedly was the rain that contributed to this mess), it was almost 60 degrees, making sitting in a turned off, unheated car very bearable. As well as the fact that I had almost a full tank of gas ‘just in case’. I thanked Him for the fact that I didn’t have to potty. (Go ahead and laugh- but I typically can’t go an hour without a bathroom break- so this was a grand relief) (I’ve already gone 3 times during this blog post- but I have had a pot of coffee… (it is Coffee With Christ, you know))). I was grateful that I have a smartphone to help pass the time, slow and old as it is. Then once my ‘gratitude’ was out, my ‘attitude’ came out. I began questioning why He put me there in the first place, particularly after I had such a productive day (I was a ‘good’ girl that day- not being lazy…). I questioned why He didn’t insist that I bring my iPad- allowing me to work on other things and be more productive while stuck. I questioned why this had to happen at night, when I didn’t have a flashlight that I could at least read my Bible (even though I didn’t have my highlighter- which irritated me as well, since it’s usually in my Bible bag- but I’d just removed it the week prior, and hadn’t replaced it). I didn’t have any notepaper so I could write my blog, or at least take notes for it. The list went on and on. I knew I should be grateful (and I was- to a degree) that my situation wasn’t as bad as those in the accident, or as bad as it could’ve been. But, I was beginning to get irritated that I was even in this situation at all, and finding faults all along the way that kept picking at my growing frustration.
Exasperation was really setting in at this point. Just what were the responders doing? Why didn’t they have a lane open yet? (As if I know anything about how cleanup from a bad accident should be or how long it should take). It was approaching my bedtime (yes, I have a bedtime), and I was increasingly growing cranky. And just when I thought I might snap- I saw a bunch of cars coming towards me. People ahead of me in traffic had turned around and come back (in the wrong direction) on the berm to the exit behind us. I’m not going to lie: my first thought was that they were idiots; they were going to cause another accident. But then I began contemplating how maybe that’s what I should do. If I could cross the traffic, I could turn around and head home. Others were doing it, how could it hurt, right? (I mean, I still had to stop at the grocery store to pick up stuff for my husband to make a sandwich to take with him hunting in the morning- which was just another added annoyance). But I couldn’t safely cross traffic to make my get-away.
By now, I’m aggravated at this extreme waste of time. There were so many things I could’ve and should’ve been doing at home (laundry, my Bible study, the store…) but there I was, stuck in this traffic, with nothing that I could do in my car (stupid phone and unpreparedness)… But the longer I sat there, the more I reflected on how, instead of doing those things I thought of- I'd have probably just put on my pajamas and sat on the couch watching Christmas movies on TV; ones I've seen numerous times before; accomplishing nothing anyway. And that would've been as big of a waste, if not a bigger one than sitting in traffic. At least sitting there had me thinking...
I thought about the sermon messages I'd heard that day. One was about understanding why we believe what we believe- specifically about the Bible's accuracy and integrity. The other message-the most recent one and what my friend preached on was love (1 Corinthians 13), specifically about what it means. I thought about my life- things I’ve wrestled with in my heart and my mind concerning these two messages. They are both so different. It wasn’t an immediate conclusion to see where they were similar. And it wasn’t an immediate correlation of where I needed to concentrate. But as I thought about the two separate messages, they began to comingle. The Bible, with all of its commandments, historical, scientific, medical facts, and its stories, is a giant book of love to us from God. Referencing my first sermon, in order to be able to be a true Disciple of Christ, we must understand why we believe what we believe—which means we need to understand the Bible; and to understand the Bible we must study it; to learn what it is meant to teach us. Believers have something special; we have Christ’s love, mercy and grace. Unbelievers have nothing. (No wonder they’re miserable) Our Bible is God’s written Word (John 1:1-18); it is God’s written love letter to us. The personification of love is Christ; there is no greater example than Him (John 3:16). There’s no greater love than laying down one’s life for a friend. (John 15:13) And we are all friends of Jesus (more than friends, actually). (Song of Solomon 2:16, 6:3) And I was reminded of the two greatest commandments: Love God, love others. (Matthew 22:37-39) Love. How loving was I being aggravated at God for this situation? How loving was I as I mocked the people standing in the middle of the interstate talking with each other? (Why wasn’t I out there showing God’s love to them- maybe one of them needed it)? How loving was I being as the anger, bitterness, and selfishness settled in thinking about how uncomfortable, how tired, and how bored I was? (I’d like to say that I had a turning point here, got out of my car and spread the Gospel… but, no; I was still too stubborn to acknowledge a radical heart change.)
An anxiety attack was upon me after hour three had come and gone. I was really tired, finally had to go to the bathroom, and was beginning to feel nauseated. I noticed how dark it was with all of the vehicles’ lights shut off, and few stars in the sky. The darkness began to envelop me and fear settled into my already queasy stomach. Where was God right now? Why were any and all of us in this particular situation? I started pleading with Him to make this end. I realized how badly I just wanted to go home; to just be at home. And it started sinking in- I waste too much time doing ‘stuff’ and not enough time enjoying this life; God’s love letter to me personally. (And I certainly don’t spend enough time telling or showing others Christ’s love for them). I began praying fervently, aloud. I felt the anxiety release and a peace settle in. I felt a renewed ‘second wind’ stir within me, assuring me that I wouldn’t go insane sitting in this car for another hour or more. And, I admit this sounds fabricated, but this time, when I prayed for His mercy in this situation, a star twinkled brightly (when the sky was so dark previously), and suddenly the vehicles around me started their engines; we were about to be released from this turmoil! (And yet, part of me was still apprehensive that it was really over).
And that’s how life goes, doesn’t it? We get comfortable in our lives, doing our stuff, and ignore warning signs coming up. We then get stuck in mayhem and chaos, looking for a shortcut to get us out of the mess. We question God’s motives; immediately blaming Him for not seeing how ‘good’ we’ve been, having the audacity to think that He owes us something. Even accusing Him of not loving us enough. We easily forget the good He has given us, (as if Salvation isn’t good enough) but we all have many blessings to be thankful for in our lives. God is Love. God’s Word is His love letter to us. God loves us. Why is it we’re so slow and too closed-minded to love others? Or even accept His love; and sometimes that means it’s uncomfortable, and at times, painful? But boy when we do accept Him—look out! (John 5:24) He shines through the darkness (Psalm 27:1, John 8:12, 1 John 1:5). He gives us His Peace, His Joy, and His Eternal Love (Galatians 5:22). So, in the end, when the temporary turmoil is over, was all the grumbling (aggravation, frustration, irritation…) really worth it? The greatness of our pain cannot compare to the greatness of His Love. Sometimes He just has to bring us to a complete stop for a point to be driven home. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3: “If I…, If I…, If I… but don’t have love, I am and gain nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8: Love is patient, kind, not envious, not proud, not dishonorable or selfish, forgiving, rejoices in truth, protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres…never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:13: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”