I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. —Romans 7:15
My Christian walk has been feeling more real over the past seven months. I see areas in my life that need improvement. Behaviour that I wouldn’t have thought twice about feels wrong. I’m less inclined to judge others or tell them what to do. I’m slowly learning to keep quiet unless doing so would harm someone (this is hard, especially at work!).
Life would be easier if becoming a Christian included surgical removal of my “mean thoughts” and “unkindness” parts! Sometimes I’m so fixated on what’s “fair” that I forget to be kind, generous or gracious. Instead I’m petty: if a colleague leaves a dirty cup in the sink and forgets about it, I won’t wash it because in my mind they put it there so they should wash it, but if I’m already washing a couple of things how much extra time does it take to wash one cup? Now I’ll wash other people’s things in the sink…sometimes! See why that verse from Romans 7 spoke to me?
God tests us; for example, if you’ve been praying for patience, you’ll be given more situations where you have to exercise patience, rather than just waking up one day and being more patient than you used to be. My weak areas are definitely being tested and I pass maybe half of the time—and this is the point of this post.
My next door neighbour of less than a year often leaves his copy of the flyers that are delivered to our homes in the space between his house and mine. It drives me nuts because it makes the space look untidy. I always think “How hard is it to put the flyers in your recycling bin? Or put a note on your mailbox saying that you don’t want flyers delivered to your home?” I let the situation bother and annoy me when I could just pick up the flyers and recycle them (because really it only takes a minute to do so). The best thing to do would be to maintain peace. Most of the time that’s what I do, but this past weekend I saw a flyer that had been there for over a week, and I snapped! I brought the flyer into my house and put it in my recycling bin, then found a piece of poster board, wrote a message on it asking that flyers not be left there, and put it in the space between our houses.
Shortly after this, I heard my neighbour either going out or coming in and I felt bad about the note. I started to think about the situation from a different perspective (not like me!): the first and only time I’d ever seen my neighbour, I’d asked if a wedding or party invitation that had been delivered to me belonged to him. He said it wasn’t his, but he had mentioned at the time that he was getting married. I had also heard from another neighbour that he and his girlfriend have a young child and a dog. Maybe wedding planning and raising a young child meant that their hands were always full when they got home, and they just needed to get into the house, causing the flyer to be kicked aside. Maybe it was even the wind moving those flyers into the space between us. Or maybe he simply didn’t think his actions were a big deal, and figured that our condo fees cover this sort of thing.
It was ok for me to be frustrated, but stooping to passive-aggressiveness wasn’t cool so I went to collect my sign. When I opened my door the sign was lying on my welcome mat, further confirmation that the note was a terrible idea.
I brought the note in, tossed it in my recycling bin, and felt even worse. Since it was after midnight, I decided to repent to God rather than knock on his door (I was being practical too: if he didn’t accept my apology and was angry, I didn’t want him to do something that could send me to the hospital; I’ve only met him once after all!). I decided that I would apologize in person the next time I saw him, but I left a note with an apology in his mailbox. I was worried that I’d find the note on my welcome mat the next day but thankfully I didn’t.
In this society we’re encouraged to look out for our best interests and put ourselves first, but this is the opposite of what Jesus did. Living the “me first” way isn’t adding to my life so I’ll try Jesus’ way, focusing on loving others and having the mindset of serving others. Being a Christian doesn’t stop you from thinking bad thoughts or taking wrong actions, but you can repent and do better next time.
How do you deal with situations where your actions don’t match your beliefs?