by Rhonda Loucks
Have you ever been upset with a particular policy, or procedure, or behavior? Has that thing then burrowed deep down under your skin, and – though you prayed over it and kept it at bay and put it under some sort of control so as not to distort your spiritual pursuit of purity – is it still there? Now, let’s not disregard this thorn of agitation before we consider that Christ, too, may have had a certain trigger for agitation. Remember the money tables in the House of Prayer? Remember the lecture He gave about running the little children off? Remember Him asking the disciples how it was that they possibly still did not understand His teachings? And remember His great sighs of disappointment at the amount of unbelief and lack of faith from His own home town? Well today, my heart leapt with scriptural approval as I gleaned past a verse that gave me absolute proof that my feelings of agitation on a particular topic were valid.
And I saw all the ways that I was going to use the scriptural proof I had uncovered to make sure that those who agitated me knew they were wrong. Now truly how many times have you seen this really happen? On television shows and in old romantic movies maybe but how much of this “oh, I was wrong and I will tell the world and correct the damage I have done” stuff ever really happens? Probably it does not happen very much. Christ was angry the day He knocked over the tables in church. And still, those who owned the merchandise at the tables did not fall to their knees before God and proclaim their error. In fact, many of them became enraged as they proclaimed themselves the victims. But still, even though I knew there was only a slight chance, something in me wanted to find a way to spread this “proof” and avenge my feelings of agitation.
Now, I cannot resist in giving this example and hopefully add clarity. One of my deeper-than-skin depth agitations is the strange way people behave at sporting events. I like sports. I have to. My kids are involved with several sporting seasons (probably the Lord’s sense of humor), and I wouldn’t miss watching and supporting them for almost anything. Yet, in fairness, I have to admit, just for perspective, that I am probably the only mother in the stands hoping (not praying) that our team might lose so that the family can be all together for the holidays. But, I contain myself to not share my perspective aloud – and repeatedly – at games. This is unlike so many other fans who consistently share all that they know about the sport being played loudly and repeatedly.
I start praying when I walk into the games. I pray while trying to find a seat (scanning the audience in an effort to avoid those whose behavior I already know will agitate me – strange large hats, big signs and face painting are usually an indication). I pray for my self-control as the first play begins and (it seems) that half of those in the crowd start screaming ridiculous phrases. Why would you yell “grab the ball” or “use your hands” to a receiver? Or what reasonable sense is there in screaming “block ’em” or “hit ’em” to an offensive lineman? What do they think they are trying to do? What do they think all those grueling practices were about in the 102-degree, late summer and the now 11-degree winter? And do those goofs in the stands really think that yelling the same instructions over and over causes any positive motivation? Imagine if someone stood by the road and screamed “drive, drive” or “avoid other cars” at the oncoming traffic. We certainly would not think his comments are sensible or call him a “great drivers fan.”
By six plays into the game, my skin is crawling. I know what that old adage means. However, I do not believe it is about some superficial rash or itch. It is about these moments when the things that were suppressed deep down under the skin are making their way to the surface. And right before they break through, there is an intense feeling of squirming and crawling. And you know, just like a burning firecracker on the 4th of July, that if the fan behind you blows his breath against the hair on your neck one more time as he yells that ridiculous phrase – again – you will explode.
OK, I know you get the point, but let’s look at this further for my own pleasure. Helmets, pads, 65 voices on the sidelines, 1500 loud people in the stands, training to focus on the team and the coach’s voice – does this strange man sitting behind me really think that any player can really hear him? Especially during the motion of the play? Well, at some point he must have realized the common sense in what I was thinking because he stopped yelling instructions at the players. However, he started yelling corrective statements to the officials and coaches.
Now, they obviously were in a position to hear some of it, because one referee threw a mean look our way. So I ducked and pointed behind me, serving justice where it was due. At that moment, I wanted to stand and gather everyone’s attention in instant replay and then in no uncertain terms show them, show the whole crowd, how ridiculous and ineffective their comments were and how their negative and judgmental screams were destructive to my enjoyment of the game. However, while I was still daydreaming about how everyone would understand and the man behind me who kept yelling in my ear would repent, I heard him say to his friend, I guess little miss-prissy doesn’t want to know the truth.
And even though his statement made about the same amount of sense as his earlier statements to the players, it did make me think. It sort of hit a nerve in me because I did want to know the truth. I always want to know the truth. From my long and painful years of study in pursuit of “The Truth” I was instantly reminded that “truth” is not about one observer’s opinion. “Truth” is not about loudness or intensity. And “truth” is never about self-centeredness. I decided this man knows nothing about truth. By the way, he never did quit. Several of them never did quit yelling. Every play, every game, all season, brilliant insights (yes, that is certainly sarcasm) rang from the stadium where sat those least involved in the action of the game. As his voice grew horse in the third quarter and his volume waned, I thanked the Lord with a grateful heart, and my skin stopped moving. Then I realized what the truth was: I did not need to be so agitated at his behavior at these games.
My agitation at the games is petty; my agitation at judgmental Christians however, is valid. I struggle with the calling that God has placed on my life, because I know who I am and who I have been. My life is filled with mistakes past and current. I doubt, as much as I am faithful. I am strangely gullible and skeptical, combined. Still, God has asked me to speak for Him, to write the things He whispers to me, to be brave enough to expose my changing relationship with Him, to others, to you. And each time I walk into a familiar room, or see a familiar face from my past, I loose strength and want to deny that calling. And when those familiar places and faces are more than willing to expose the past me than they are willing to see the new me, my skin begins to crawl with their judgmental injustice.
Petty agitations are things I just need to get over. Valid agitations are the thorns I need to address. Valid agitations are the things that agitated Christ. These are the things that can get in our paths and hinder the harvest if we do not deal with them and seek direction from Christ. I’m not sure what your purpose is in life or how you have been called to help in the fields. But I know that each of us needs to be a ready and willing worker. We cannot let the petty agitations of life get us off track. Nor can we let the valid agitations keep us from being productive. Screaming fans I can ignore. People and places reminding me of my failures? Well, that is not so easy.
So, I arm myself with scripture and invite the Lord to battle at my side. Then I confront my valid agitations one-by-one as the Lord teaches me how to deal with each of them. Some He has me speak to. Some He has me forgive and walk away. Some He has me repent of again for my own healing. Some, He tells me will never change, and we sadly leave them to themselves. But through each of the battles, I learn a new skill set and am better prepared. And over and over, the Lord reminds me that He wants me, that He needs me, that He has called me for a purpose that only I can fill.
What are your agitations?
What is your calling?
Rhonda D. Loucks is an author, wife, mother, Sunday School teacher and member of Wichita First Church of the Nazarene. More of her writings are available at uncutobedience.com.