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Being the Butt of God’s Joke March 20, 2014

Posted by michaelnjohns in Uncategorized.
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On a Yahoo Answers board, someone asked what the expression “the butt of a joke” meant, and one user efficiently answered. “The word butt basically means to strike with the horns in the way a bull, cow or other horned animal does to defend itself. As a noun it means the object of butting — the target of jokes.” Thank God it doesn’t mean backside, but being the butt of a joke makes one feel a bit like a backside being “[struck] with the horns.”

Yesterday I was the butt of the joke, and it was God’s joke. God has a sense of humor, people. He created us in his image, and some of us have senses of humor, after all. As soon as I got the joke, I realized it was kind of hilarious. But while the joke was playing out, not so much. Perhaps half of comedy is the timing of telling out the joke. Timing makes it funnier.

First I had a hard day at work. There weren’t enough people to take care of the work I just got laterally moved (here read “a promotion with more work for the same amount of pay”) away from, so I got delegated to do the old work AND the new work. It was harsh. At the end of the day all I wanted to do was run away, and get out of there.

I’ll confess, I’ve got issues. My sister reminds me that I need to demonstrate more faith. But when things fall apart, or don’t go right, which, let’s be honest, is ALWAYS and happens to EVERYONE, I personally feel like God is allowing or even directing it at me personally. I’ve never been able to use my shield of faith to fix a broken window, stop something from falling apart when it’s worn out, or pad a short paycheck. Anyone else? Occasionally I have seen prayers answered, but not nearly enough, and certainly not on my schedule. I’m told to trust in God’s timing and that He is on time. Israel in the wilderness got what they needed, daily, and kept complaining. I’m waiting while my life seems to fall apart. It’s stressful sometimes.

What I think I need now, apparently is not what I need now, from a God’s eye view. But I don’t have that perspective. To me it looks like it’s growing more hopeless day by day. But somehow I’m supposed to understand that if I need it now, I have it now. So if I don’t have it, I don’t need it, at least not yet. Tell me this when I need a repairman, and cash to pay for services rendered.

My wife says I should be more capable of fixing things myself. To her a man is auto mechanic, plumber, HVAC Tech, repairman, because her dad tinkered with everything. Occasionally his result was farpotshket, but most of the time he was able to fix what he tackled. Me? Not so much. I have a phobia of plumbing, and I just about have a panic attack when things fall apart.

When I got home, my wife reminded me that the lights outside our garage were burned out. Simple, you say. Just change the bulbs. It was cold and windy. I took off the top of the box-style fixture the first one was in, and installed a new bulb, no problem. I put the top back on. Then I went to the left side. Trying to take the top off, one of the screws was stuck, so I revolved the top of the box and changed the light bulb, no problem. But then the reflective cardboard backing on the back of the box fell in. I revolved the top again, and the glass from the left side fell out. Comedy for any audience, sure, but not very funny to me.

I must have looked like one of those silent movies with Charlie Chaplin, or maybe I’d have qualified as one of the three stooges. Except my murmur was far from silent. At the end, I gave up on the fixture, all 3 glass sides and the cardboard backing were removed, and the lid is still hanging stubbornly from the skeleton that’s supposed to hold the 4 sides, but had stubbornly declined to receive and hold. And I was cold. I have to try again later, or buy a new fixture. Perhaps something of a superior design, that enables easier switching of light bulbs. One of my car windows has a broken motor and is held poorly in place with duct tape. There, I fixed it. pity you can’t duct tape a garage light bulb enclosure, it would defeat the purpose. But if you could, I would have done that.

I abandoned the effort (here read, “rage quit.”) I came back into my house with frozen fingers, and my wife offered me a hot cup of tea. I thanked her and murmured a bit. And somehow, I had the presence of mind to ask my wife and our son to pray for me, since I was pretty frustrated and very discouraged.

When things fall apart, as they just do in a world stamped “Made in China,” I routinely have a crisis of faith. Sorry, it’s just me. I read about how the children of Israel were cared for during their time in the wilderness, and I’m just jealous. Deuteronomy 8:4, and just in case they forgot, Deuteronomy 29:5, remind Israel “During the 40 years that I led you through the wilderness, your clothes did not wear out, nor did the sandals on your feet.” Well, I’ve got shirts with holes in the elbow, I’ve got pants that have a rip in the knee, and my last pair of shoes had cracks in the soles until I mustered the cash for a new pair.

I am so jealous. Why can’t my things not wear out? Why do my things fall apart faster than I can fix them? The more it happens, the less I trust.

I help with a group of kids who get together to memorize Bible Verses. The meeting was right after I had a few sips of tea, so I went. I thought I had arranged a scheduled speaker, but the person assigned for the evening’s large group Bible study did not step up. The adult leaders looked around at each other, asking who had agreed to take the week’s short Bible devotional to open the study session. No one. Blank stares landed on me. So after my “Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” (thank you Judith Viorst), I stepped up to pinch hit.

I checked the schedule for the assigned Bible Study topic and honestly was swept with all different manner of emotions. I remembered my hopelessness and exhaustion. I remembered my anger. I remembered how my sister tries to encourage me when I want to give up. I remembered the tea cup, and knew God had aimed the lesson straight at me. I almost cried. And then I almost laughed. It wasn’t for the kids today. I chose laughter and played along, accepting my role in God’s joke. The topic, a favorite of my sisters, was I Thessalonians 5:17-18. I decided to roll in v 16 just for good measure, and provided what they call in preaching circles “an extemporaneous talk.” That means I made it up, after praying very quickly. God handed me this and required me to teach it because it was exactly what I needed to hear myself. That was the funny part of it. There He was, showing up to meet my need, in His own timing and in his own hilarous way. I did plan the topics but I didn’t plan to teach this one.

I Thessalonians 5:16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

I told the kids, and myself, that God wants us to talk to Him. I told them about how difficult my day had been, leaving out most of the irritating details, my failure, and my faithless raging response. I think I just said that sometimes life is difficult but God calls us to trust Him through our difficulties. The text says, “Rejoice always.” The irony is not lost on my heart. I explain that sometimes I don’t feel very much like rejoicing. I explain that in spite of days when things don’t go right, God cares about us, which is why the next verse says, “Pray continually.” We cry out to God (although my reaction was a murmur) when things fall apart. We cry out to God when we’re hurt, or feeling lonely, or sad, or scared.

So we are instructed to pray when things are happy and we do feel like rejoicing, and we pray when things are difficult. It’s a relationship though, not just a “God, please give me this and that, and heal Grandma who is sick, and help my dog learn to obey.” It’s not just us asking and telling God we’re happy, or not happy. It’s us listening to God as he speaks to us through the Bible and other Christ followers and, if you can hear it, that still, small Voice. It’s me, taking encouragement from all of the kids as they learn God’s truth. It’s us, taking encouragement as we watch how God works in other people’s lives.

I didn’t say it, but, even if He seems uninterested in our light and momentary trials and petty concerns that we ask about for ourselves, it is better to pray for others in their times of need than to worry about our own problems. If the focus is on us, we are tempted to rage quit because our stormy lives are so hard. It is better to focus on, and celebrate, as others seem to win, than to focus on our own trials.

I remind them that we live in a world where things fall apart, sometimes we lose the big football game, sometimes we get a bad grade, people sometimes get sick and sometimes even die, and friendships are even sometimes fickle. It’s not even the end of the world, I joke, when your boyfriend or girlfriend leaves. But God cares about all of this and helps us to get through the trials.

And the hardest thing I had to read: “In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will in Christ Jesus concerning you.” I’m not feeling very grateful. But I am feeling crushed. My annoying sister frequently reminds me of this verse, like a challenge. I tell them, truthfully, that I am thankful for them, for their progress, and their encouragements, and for my wife offering me a hot cup of tea when I came in all frustrated and cold. Today was hard, but I survived and came to help at church anyway. I tell them that they should keep working toward their spiritual goals even though it is sometimes hard, and they can do it. In life, you don’t always get another try, but in church, we’re supposed to extend one another grace, so if they don’t make it through their books this year, there’s next year. I tell them instead of giving in to feelings of hopelessness, you should look for those moments when people give you grace and encouragement, like a hot cup of cocoa or tea when you’re cold, or an after school snack when you’re too hungry to wait for dinner. You should pray and trust God. And you need to keep trying.

You need to pray, and trust, and keep trying.

And so do I.

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Comments»

1. suzannepurewal - March 20, 2014

Sorry, but I found myself laughing at your misfortune. Just know that you are not alone. Stuff happens. Things will get better. Hang in there!

michaelnjohns - March 21, 2014

Tonight in phase 2 of my repair of the light fixture, duct tape.


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