Saturday, June 9, 2012

Having one of those days?

Thursday started just like any other day – I woke up. From there it seemed like everything went downhill at just about the same speed and intensity as Space Mountain. From the moment I rolled out of bed, things started to unravel.

Did you ever open up a baseball and start unwinding the string? Or cut open a golf ball and unravel the never ending rubber band inside? Then, in a panic try and rewind the mess and put the ball back together? That’s about how my Thursday went. To say that it went from bad to worse is like hearing those immortal words from your car repair shop supervisor, “The air conditioning in your car can easily be repaired; all you need is a new compressor, evaporator, belts, motor, filter, coolant recharge and $5,700.” That was Thursday.

I remember being given an old clock as a kid. When I received it with a puzzled “thank you” in my voice, my uncle told me to have fun taking it apart. I lit up like a firecracker and hugged him for a nanosecond before dashing off to get screwdrivers, needle nose plies, wrenches and all manner of tools needed to rip its guts out. It only took me about 20 minutes to reduce the clock to a pile of gears, springs, wires, nuts and bolts. Taking the clockworks “kill” proudly back to my uncle, he congratulated me by rubbing my curly red hair (yes – I really did have curly red hair, the details of which are reserved for another day, another blog.) Then he uttered words that I never anticipated, “That’s great Chet. Now, put it back together.” How was it possible to put together what had been pulled apart and shredded into a million pieces? I didn’t have a set of instructions, and I certainly didn’t write a set of destruction. The puzzled look on my face gave all my aunts and uncles a good laugh. My face turned as red as my hair. I retreated to my inner sanctum to plot my revenge, which took the form of shaking up a grape soda and letting it explode all over my uncle’s white ceiling. The ensuing animated dialogue would certainly have made riveting reality TV rivaling that of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.”

Getting back to Thursday, my two carefully and meticulously planned appointments were a total disaster. In the first meeting we had an agenda that everyone agreed to, was “hijacked” by a latecomer to the meeting, asking detailed questions that were only related to the agenda in that we were speaking English. No one was prepared for either the topics or level of detail being requested. Our week long preparation was totally down the drain, no one was happy. For the second meeting, the key contact for the meeting showed up 20 minutes late without a word of apology or concern that he wasted everyone’s time. When we finally tried to get started, computers and internet connections would not work. We finally got underway but there was a well-deserved air of dissatisfaction.

I then had to deal with an emergency financial need.  Finding a branch of the right bank in a strange part of the country, I spent the next 20 minutes explaining what I needed to do to a total stranger who sat behind 2 inches of reinforced plexiglass saying, “Well, I’ve never done that before.” While in the two appointments that went nowhere, I got a frantic voice message from my Mom to call her. This was followed by another voice message from my brother, telling me to call Mom with that “you better call Mom right away” tone in his voice. I called my Mom only to discover that someone claiming to be our son asked her to send $3,000 because they were in a New Mexico jail. Twelve calls and two hours later I was able to get to the bottom of the matter and reassure everyone that the scammer was lying and that everyone was safe and sound.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, I ran out of underarm deodorant. My razor blade was dull, cutting my face to ribbons. My shirts were wrinkled after being packed and traveling across the country. There was something stuck in my teeth and I didn't have waxed dental floss. My shoes needed shining.

And as if to add insult to injury, the button that holds my pants up popped off (I am very certain that this final blow wasn’t the result of added pressure exerted due to the bag of fresh made caramel popcorn or Cheetoes…Nah!)

As I catch my breath, and hold up my pants from Thursday, I’ve come to the conclusion that we’re all very much alike. It doesn’t matter what your race, color, marital status, ethnic background, job, or anything else; I bet we’re pretty much the same. It doesn't matter if you’ve just won the lottery or declared bankruptcy.  If you live in a lake house, boat house, townhouse or outhouse, I bet that we all struggle with the same things.

When life seems to be headed downhill, we all easily drift in that same direction, losing concentration and motivation on what’s really important. When the general trend is downward, it seems like it doesn’t matter if it’s something really big and serious or something small and irritating.  The easy thing to do is throw up our hands and take a negative route.

You may be surprised to learn that even some great people of faith in the Bible have this same reaction;

  • Moses – “If this is how you (God) are going to treat me, kill me[1]
  • Jacob – “Everything is against me[2]
  • Jonah – “O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live[3]
  • David – “I am laid low in the dust[4]
  • Elijah – “I am the only one left[5]

These were all great men of faith, yet they each reached the end of their rope. Life became unbearable and they cried out to God to end it all.

I’ve been there, and if we’re honest, we all have. The pressures becomes so heavy and intense that you felt like screaming. One time when I came to that breaking point, I kicked a telephone pole with all my strength. The final score was;

Six weeks later my broken foot was healed, but my basic problem remained.

And the basic problem is that we've come to the conclusion that we deserve better. We think that we’re not so bad, we’re better than murders, rapist and kidnappers. We look at people who are deathly sick due, their lives cut short due to poor choices and lifestyles. With smug arrogance we condemn them and elevate ourselves in self-righteousness.

Jesus tells a story to describe this kind of person, self-assured, arrogance, proud[6]. In the story, the man says, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people” and then he filled in the blanks of those he felt superior to. Who would you and I fill in those blanks with? Jesus says that man did not receive forgiveness or restoration with God.

The story goes on to a second character who beats his breast and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Jesus says that this second person was made right before God. And this just blows me away.

I grew up in a church environment; I tried to do all the right things. I wanted to impress God and others with what I did, how good I was. But the end result was twofold;

  • First, I thought that I was better than everyone else, I was superior to everyone, and I told them so
  • Second, I failed, and failed and failed again. No matter how low I moved the bar, I failed

When someone first explained that God loved me and wanted a relationship with me through Jesus, it sounded so good but I wanted to know how I was supposed to pay for it. What did I have to do? What group did I need to join? What price did I have to pay?

God’s “secret sauce” was that there was nothing I could do to earn or deserve His love. All I could bring was dirty in comparison to God who is perfect. So, He had to take the responsibility of paying the price I could not pay, living the life I could not live, in my place, for my good.

God was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice and bring me into a personal relationship with him. He took all my brokenness, failure and fears and made me his child. I didn’t deserve it, I don’t deserve it. Yet he reached out to me – I’ll never fully understand.

So, Thursday was a total bomb. But in light of God’s goodness and mercy to me, it’s all good. Yes, I’ll try to organize meetings and keep things from totally falling apart. But no matter how bad it gets, I know that life is worth living and God is with me, popped button and all.

Now that’s really one of “those” days.

Blessings - Chet

Chet Gladkowski writes on contemporary topics that impact our lives, culture and faith. - email, Facebook, Twitter - blog
GladAssociates - YouTube

[1] Numbers 11:15
[2] Genesis 42:36
[3] Jonah 4:3
[4] Psalm 119:25
[5] 1 Kings 19:10, 14
[6] Luke 18:9-14

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