Grumpy. That’s how I felt this morning when Edric called me and said he was late. We usually leave for Sunday worship early but today, Edric planned a biking bonding activity with his friends. He enjoys these morning bike rides with his high school buddies which, of course, I have nothing against. I am glad he gets to reconnect with them and exercise, too.
But between Edric and I, time estimation is more of my forte. He has changed alot in this area but in the past he would tell me, “I will be there in fifteen minutes” and it would take him thirty. Or, he would plan engagements too close to one another so we couldn’t possibly be on time to the next. This would frustrate me but over the years, it dissolved into a non-issue between us because he became more of a stickler for schedules and appointments…even more so than me.
However, with this occasion I was pretty sure he would not make it back on time to pick is up. Yet he ASSURED me that it wouldn’t be a problem, especially since he was starting out at 5:30am. So I trusted his plan.
I asked the kids to be ready by 8:30 and we waited. But Edric called me to say he was running late and still had to drop his friend off. I must admit that I felt irritated.
First, I don’t like being late to worship. It’s a bad example to the kids and I feel like we aren’t prioritizing God. Second, I trusted Edric and he mismanaged my expectations. Third, I knew there would be consequences — no parking, difficulty getting good seats, getting the kids into Sunday School, and missing half the service. Fourth (and I found this out later on), Edric ran over a chicken. He was biking down a hill and the chicken crossed the road. That was the end of the poor thing. Of course I felt awful about this. Edric thought it was kind of comical. Bird killer.
We ended up leaving by 9:30 am when the service started at 9am. The irritation was percolating.
I wanted to make a big deal out of Edric’s lateness so I said, “I hope you realized that your plan was a bad one.” It was an unnecessary comment but I was itching to let that out. Edric was actually humble about it. He apologized to all of us on our way to church. But I didn’t shake off the negativity right away. I wanted him to internalize and reflect on the gravity of his decisions as the leader of our family. What a meanie, eh?
Little did I know that this was going to be a spiritual lesson for me! During the message, I was convicted by the passage in 1 Corinthians 16:14 which says, “everything you do must be done in love.” God spoke to me…Why are you penalizing Edric with your irritation and making him feel like he is in the “dog house”? Are you being loving? Do I do that to you?
The speaker talked about “Love At Its Best,” that love is the mark of a true believer and the symbol of a genuine follower of Jesus. How could I sit through 45 minutes of a message like that and not be stirred to consider the critical spirit that was brewing inside of me towards Edric.
I wasn’t being loving. I was acting like the pious one, the one who knew her priorities and wouldn’t make plans that conflicted with Sunday morning worship. But I had the facade of a hypocrite.
I had ritualized going to church but God wanted me to take a look at my heart. Was there love in it? Not really. When Edric caused the family to be late, I wanted to make him feel guilty and use that to my advantage. I even asked him to treat us out for lunch and take me shopping! Can you believe it?!
In short, I thought he should “pay” for what he did. But real love is not vengeful. It releases those who wrong us with unconditional forgiveness, without holding on to them with manipulative puppet strings, or making them feel like they “owe” us.
1 John 3:18 says, “Let us not love with words or tongue but in actions and in truth.” So when the speaker encouraged us to turn to the person beside us and say, I love you no matter what, the Lord nudged me to tell Edric, “I love you no matter what…” and I added…”even if I feel irritated.” We both smiled at each other and I asked Edric for forgiveness for being annoyed.
After I let go of my unproductive feelings and replaced them with the choice to be loving, I felt the love for Edric once again. And the matter between us was completely resolved. It even seemed silly and trivial that I got grumpy in the first place. Edric is such a wonderful husband. The killing the bird part wasn’t so nice but it was involuntary bird slaughter, an accident.
I do love Edric no matter what and I want him to know that. But I have this rottenness inside that must be overcome by the love of Christ so it doesn’t seep out in a stench-full sort of way when provoked. Instead, my first recourse when offended or upset should be Christ-like: How can I show grace even when someone does things that disappointment and frustrate me? How can I be loving in the way that God would want me to be?
God is not after the piety of coming to church. He is looking at the condition of our hearts. He wants to see us act in love — a manifestation of real worship — rather than sit there for attendance credit. Yeah look at me, I am in church is not what’s important to him. It’s whether we love him with all of our hearts and channel his love to others, too.
God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:24 NASB)