In one of my favorite books, Little Women, the father writes home a letter from the war, and ends it with an encouragement to all his "little women" to "fight their bosom enemies bravely, and conquer themselves so beautifully." I think about what a daily fight it is to conquer myself and my inner demons, and sometimes, when you think you've fought the good fight, the ugly little thing raises its head again.
Yesterday evening, I found myself a bit irritable. We had laundry up the wazoo, I had started dinner a tad later than usual, there was spaghetti sauce all over the stove top and dishes all over the counter and in the sink. Nich was insisting that we should get to our young adult community group meeting on time, which I thought was unnecessary, as history has shown that nobody else makes it a priority to show up on time. Thus, I was feeling rushed through my dinner, which left me feeling nauseated on top of being annoyed.
We walked in the door at group and lo and behold, there were two people there, with the TV on. When I asked one where his wife was, he replied nonchalantly, "Oh, she'll be here," to which my snippy little voice in my head snapped, "That wasn't the question." Then the other one pipes in and says, "Mine's working," to which my stubborn self just stared until he said, "I'm kidding." (He's not married, just dating, and because I view marriage as a sacred covenant, I don't think any guy has the privilege to even jokingly refer to a woman as his wife until he's made that lifelong commitment to her before God).
Several minutes later, the last person walks in, chitchatting about how he had invited so and so and was expecting them to be there (for the second week in a row). There had been no follow-up that day. And then he says, "Oh, what, am I late?" ARGH!
And then, as the discussion progressed, two of the members decided to be a bit obnoxious about the ending time, which made no sense, because we ended up sitting around a chatting and them fiddling on their guitars for another half hour.
Now, I know where my feelings were coming from.
First of all, I hate feeling rushed when I know perfectly well that other people aren't going to respect my time anyway.
Secondly, Nich and I have tried to guide and direct the group members in the best way possible to leave them on their own once we left the group, including on how to invite new people to join and the group's relationship and accountability to the church. I feel like everything we said is being thrown out the window, which isn't the focus, but that they're making mistakes that make me want to bang my head against a wall. It also really made me sad that there was some sarcastic and lackluster responses to the Bible study the church has selected for the fall. Our church has been coordinating an all-church study annually for September and October. I guess I just would have hoped that by now, the leftover adolescent rebellious mindset of "They're telling us we have to so we don't want to" would have taken a backseat to the joy of doing something as a church body, but no. Rolling eyes and smart remarks about "Guess we don't have a choice" abounded.
Also, when we were hosting group at our house, it was one of these very people who were being time Nazis who would always make snide remarks whenever we would ask for group to end by a certain time so that Nich and I could make sure to get to bed on time. I feel like group nights are set aside for Bible study, worship, and prayer, and it just felt like we were being rushed through that just so they could hang out.
And finally, I was just simply underwhelmed in the past couple weeks with the community aspect of the group. The study portion was great, but last week was the last meeting one of our college students would be home for and nothing was done to "send him off well." No prayer time, no treat, no goodbye gift. And then same thing with us last night. It was our last night with them, and there was nothing said or done to commemorate it. I just felt as though all Nich and I have poured out into this group went completely unappreciated, and that was really hurtful to us. I know that we serve in ministry because the Lord calls us to them, and I know that our reward is in God's eyes. But it would have been nice to be, at the very least, thanked.
Then, when four of us made plans to go get ice cream afterward, the rest invited themselves along. Then one of them had the audacity to exaggerate how late it was to get us all to leave, because HE wanted to go home.
I know this all comes down to conquering my own self and letting them learn and grow from their own mistakes. And sometimes, God teaches people best in their own humility. I worry about some of their misguided opinions, their lack of joy and enthusiasm, and how some of the loudest voices are the most ignorant. But I have to trust that this is the Lord's will for this group right now, and that means I have to trust all the way. Completely. All the way down to the little details.
And it means not letting my own grumpy, grouchy heart get in the way of His will being done in me.
"If the God you believe in as an idea doesn’t start showing up in what happens to you in your own life, you have as much cause for concern as if the God you don’t believe in as an idea does start showing up. It is absolutely crucial, therefore, to keep in constant touch with what is going on in your own life’s story and to pay close attention to what is going on in the stories of others’ lives. If God is present anywhere, it is in those stories that God is present. If God is not present in those stories, then they are scarcely worth telling." ~ Frederick Buechner