Think about how you feel when a flight you were planning to take is delayed for several hours. I wish I could be the calm person with a little game for the restless children, the dispenser of sweetness, patience, and an extra bottle of water or two. And yet, there I am, rushing to the line to ask the unfortunate airline steward who delivers the news of the delay, What about my connecting flight, what about the people coming to pick me up, what about my luggage? How many free vouchers do I get for my pain and suffering?
I want to be gracious and loving and patient all the time and really don't like myself when I lose my cool over delays or injustices, especially small ones. One thing that has helped is to see if I can serve a better purpose than leading a mutinous group of disgruntled travelers. I'm trying to think of myself as a kind of undercover agent discovering my mission, which can be intriguing as well as inspiring.
I've found clues to my mission in the Bible's story about Joseph, who faced a lot of injustice. Sold into slavery as a boy (by his brothers, no less), he was still able to rise to the top position in his master's home. End of story? No. The master's wife falsely accuses him of seducing her, and he gets put into prison. Boy, did this guy ever catch some bad breaks, you may think. Eventually he gets out, though, and becomes an important man to the great Pharaoh. And when he finally meets his brothers again, he tells them not to grieve or be angry with themselves, "... for God did send me before you to preserve life" (Gen. 45:5).
This story shows me that whatever the circumstances, my mission is to help people around me. In the larger issues of life, this is a goal I strive for. But sometimes in smaller incidents, I lose sight of the high ideal. Just how patient am I while stuck in traffic or standing in line for a car registration? There's more in Joseph's story that relates to patience - and trust.
During his time in prison, Joseph interpreted the dreams of two men, one of whom was the Pharaoh's butler. He promised to remember Joseph when he was set free and tell the Pharaoh about Joseph's gift of interpreting dreams. Did the butler remember? Not for two whole years. Sorry about that, Joseph.
I could easily see myself losing all patience with that little extra jog of two years if that had happened to me. But I'm learning from smaller events.
For example. I wanted to surprise a friend who was coming to visit me by meeting him at the train stop. But he wasn't on the train I assumed he would take. Nor on the next one. I was frustrated but decided to stay for one more train.
As I waited, a woman sat down next to me and began to tell me how concerned she was. She had been waiting for her daughter for several hours. She didn't speak English fluently, and I didn't speak her language. But caring doesn't have any language barriers, and I assured her I would take her to her daughter's home if her daughter didn't come.
We had an ice cream together, and within a short time the daughter did arrive, having been stuck in a traffic jam. They headed home, and my friend stepped off the next train to find me happy and calm instead of cranky.
It's a wonderful thing to discover that happiness can't be delayed. Following God's plan is an adventure with plenty of benefits.
All power and
happiness are spiritual,
and proceed from goodness.
Sacrifice self to bless one
another, even as God
has blessed you.
Mary Baker Eddy
(founder of the Monitor)
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor