A Providential Surprise

Yesterday I talked about how delays can turn even good desires into sinful cravings in my heart.

Delay + Desire = Demand.

This simple equation helps me to discern what’s going on in my heart when things don’t happen my way or on my timetable. But why is it that I can sometimes respond to delays with patience and grace, while other times I become irritable, self-pitying or resentful?

My sister-in-law, Jackie, is pictured here with four of my Little People. She started babysitting their Mommy when Jaime was 3 months old! We have really enjoyed our visit with her and my niece and nephews.

Last night my house was full of family and friends visiting with vacationing relatives from Virginia. Two of my grandsons were interacting in the playroom and I heard one say to the other, “Ok, you can have it.” Why was that comment noteworthy to me? Because it was an exchange between Sam and Issac, the brothers whose spirited conflict on vacation resulted in Issac body- slamming his older brother in an angry rage. Their amiable interaction last night reminded me of my own fickle responses to situations: one time I’m kind and self-controlled while a similar circumstance days later finds my heart churning up sin.

This may not be the case with you, but I’m increasingly finding that the difference for me comes back to what desires are influencing my heart.

I was recently praying for someone I love and sensed the Lord nudging me to cultivate more of a heart of servanthood toward her. A couple of days later I had planned to get through some items on my growing task list when she reached out to ask if I could spend the afternoon helping her get ready for an upcoming event. I typically love spontaneity — except when I’ve made made plans that are important to me like crossing things off my task list! I wanted to suggest we wait since the event was over a week away. But God had kindly prepared my heart. I knew the test of obedience to Him would come and when it did I was excited about the opportunity to set aside my plans for her as an expression of my love.

The next day, though, I was complaining to myself about her lack of appreciation. Why didn’t she thank me for spending those unplanned hours serving her? Did my overture of love and sacrifice go completely unnoticed? Wow. Only a really selfish person could be this ungrateful. “I’ll think twice before I set my own plans completely aside if it’s just gonna feed this kind of selfishness,” I humf’d.

What happend to my gratefulness to God for giving me the opportunity to respond to His prompting? Where did my desire to serve and express love go? Why did a situation that started out God and others-centered quickly morph into such me-centeredness?

I found out during the following days that my desire to obey and please God wasn’t as strong as the desire for appreciation. If obeying God had been the stronger motivation I may have noticed the lack of gratitude, but it wouldn’t have grabbed hold of my heart so strongly. Once my mind started focusing on not feeling appreciated rather than on the joy of serving, the desire for gratitude revealed itself as the ruling one in my heart.

I was surprised but grateful.

God revealing this to me didn’t trivialize the genuine joy I experienced in setting aside my plans for someone I love. However, it did alert me to this Delay + Desire = Demand pattern in my heart. A pattern I want to continue to see changed with His help.

One of my weekend activities was a birthday party for the son of my like-a-daughter, Canada. Such a fun day!

Musing over this pattern helped me prepare for a busy weekend that included numerous demands on my time and energy. So far I’m not struggling with feeling unappreciated! I went into the weekend anticipating both the desire and the potential delay of it being met to avoid silently demanding that others fulfill the desire…or incur my unspoken self-pity.  Smile.

Today my heart is full of thanks to God for the wonderful opportunity to serve  so many this weekend. But I’m going to remain on guard to make sure the next delay isn’t my own self-pity.

Aren’t you grateful that God loves flawed and broken people who are still in the process of change? What peace it brings to know that even my Delay + Desire = Demand pattern isn’t too much for Him! The gospel promises that He will complete the work He began when He saved me and that no pattern of sin on my part is greater than His mighty power to continue to save me from myself.

1 thought on “A Providential Surprise

  1. I can totally relate to this! I often wrestle with those same feelings. I have to remind myself daily what God did for me, and that only by His grace am I able to serve. Great post!

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