October 16, 2009
Unleashing the Power of Patience
"Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other's faults because of your love" Ephesians 4:2 (NLT).
Friend To Friend
When our daughter was expecting our third grandchild, she battled back pain because her "little man" loved to kick and did so with great frequency. (I think soccer is definitely in his future.) In frustration she complained, "Mom, he is sitting on my nerve!" My response was not particularly encouraging, "Honey, believe me when I say it won't be the last time."
Patience is a vital part of the parenting process as well as an emotional thread that runs through every healthy relationship. Over the years, Dan and I have had countless opportunities to work on being patient. When our children became teenagers, we realized that a new plan for their allowances was needed. Dan and I were tired of being asked for money by two teenagers who enjoyed the privilege of a regular and generous allowance. There seemed to be confusion about what their allowances should cover as opposed to those expenses that would fall under the responsibility of parental funding. For example, our son, Jered, would fill up his truck with gas and then drive my car. Our daughter, Danna, would buy a new pair of shoes and then need money for a movie. It was obvious to Dan and me that a new plan was obviously needed.
Even though Jered and Danna seemed content with the old plan in place, we sat down with each one to make a list of what their allowances would cover, encouraging them to budget their money while setting aside part of each allowance for the special things they wanted to buy. The result was a clear plan of how much money they would receive and an exact list of what it was to cover. The confusion and frustration disappeared because the right plan was in place.
God's plan for dealing with sandpaper people includes setting aside part of our emotional energy to cover their faults and allow for their weaknesses. The apostle Paul is clear in his explanation of how we should treat others, even those people who rub us the wrong way, the sandpaper people. We are called to "admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak and be patient with all men" 1 Thessalonians 5:14 (NAS).
Sandpaper people are often unruly, meaning that they are frequently careless or out of line in their behavior. The word, "unruly" applies to soldiers who refuse to follow orders, insisting on doing things their own way. Sound familiar? It is the motto of every respectable sandpaper person. Patience lovingly corrects and points out the right way but sandpaper people tend to give up easily, feeding the failure that has become a familiar companion, training their feeble hearts to despair while persuading their fragile spirits to quit. Patience comforts these hard to love people, refusing to give up on them when everyone else has walked away. The "weak" ones are those who are weak in their faith - the baby Christians. New believers awkwardly stumble through their first steps into the world of Christianity and are often perceived to be "rough around the edges". Patience not only reassures these frightened little lambs that they belong but also offers to walk with them until they grow stronger and their path is sure.
His name was Sam. I fell in love with him the first time I saw him. I was standing at the door of my second grade classroom, anxiously waiting to greet the thirty students who had been assigned to me for nine months. Though Sam was smaller than the other children, he walked with the earned confidence of one who has seen more than he should have seen at such a young age. What he lacked in size, he more than made up for in personality. He was a blatant flirt, and I was a goner as soon as he gazed up at me with strikingly blue eyes that tripped my heart and flashed two cavernous dimples that won it. I will never forget his words. They broke my heart. "My name is Sam. I am dumb and stupid and I can't do anything right. I get mad real easy and like to break things. I just thought you should know."
It took only a few minutes for Sam to begin what I suspected was his usual attempt to prove his words true as he swept through the quickly filling classroom, destruction in his hands. Papers were ripped and tossed aside. Children shrank away from his now scowling face, fear in their eyes. When the little girl laughed, Sam thought she was laughing at him and knocked her to the floor. I had seen enough. Taking Sam by the arm, I marched him out of the room and down the hall. He was not surprised or particularly concerned. It seemed to be very familiar territory - but what came next wasn't.
Looking for a place to sit, I stopped in front of a bench, pulled him into my arms and held onto him for dear life. "Sam, it is wrong to tell a lie," I whispered. Stunned, he drew back to ask, "What do you mean? I didn't tell no lie." Cupping his freckled face in my hands, I whispered, "Yes, you did. You said you were dumb and stupid and couldn't do anything right. That is a lie. I don't know who told you that and I don't care. It's not true - is it, Sam?" His eyes filled with tears - and a tiny ray of unfamiliar hope appeared. It was enough. Slowly, he shook his head, a watery smile creeping across his now softening face. "Nope! I reckon it ain't." Together, we walked back to the classroom and to a new beginning for one little sandpaper person.
That year I taught Sam and he taught me. I am not certain who learned the most but this I do know - the more we love, the more patience we will have. And the more patience we have, the more we will love. I often wonder just how many "Sams" are waiting for someone - anyone - who will choose to unleash the power of patience and by doing so unleash the power of love as well.
Lord, forgive me for my response to that difficult person in my life today. I was angry and irritated and did not take the time to see the hurt behind their sandpaper mask. I am so sorry, Father, for not loving Your child like You love me. Help me to be more patient and to be kinder to those who cross my path each day. I want to be "God with skin on" to those who need Your love, grace and mercy. Thank You for loving me and for the forgiveness and grace you pour into my life every minute of every day. I love You!
In Jesus' name,
Now It's Your Turn
- Make a list of the people who irritate you the most.
- Why do you think it is difficult for you to deal with these people?
- Does each person on your list know you are a follower of God by the way you treat them?
- What changes do you need to make in your attitude and behavior toward these people?
More From The Girlfriends
Wouldn't it be nice if everyone in your world was just like you? It would certainly make life easier. I truly believe that much of our conflict in relationships is the result of our mission to change the people with whom we interact. We want them to think like we think and act like we act - which would result in very little, if any, growth on our part. Today, celebrate that sandpaper person who drives you crazy! Thank God for all He is teaching you and how He is changing you as you learn to deal with that person.
Mary's book, Sandpaper People, can help you learn to deal with difficult people through cultivating and applying God's principles to your relationships. And be sure to check out Mary's weekly online bible study, Light for the Journey.
Originally published Friday, 16 October 2009.