The Agony Of The Missing ‘S’

According to roller-bladers, they rarely have accidents with trees, posts and other people.  As they roll along they keep their heads up and dodge around the large obstacles coming at them.  The real hazards they don’t see are the small stones on the path.  They’ll be travelling along with not a tree or pole in sight, when all of a sudden their front wheel hits a pebble and next thing they’re flat out on the ground.

Centuries ago Satan used terrible means to make Christians fearful and get them to give up their faith.  They were thrown in dungeons, tortured on the rack, burned at the stake, yet they remained courageous through it all.  Since then he’s found another method that works even better to send us sprawling.  He just tosses small pebbles of accusation in our paths.

A Christian will be going along full steam serving the Lord and he’ll hit a tone, a nuance, a hint that someone doesn’t approve; next thing he’s flying head-first into major despair.  A Christian who’s ready to die for the Faith can sometimes be brought low by a note of disapproval or an arched eyebrow.  Being left out of the in-crowd can be as agonizing as spending a few hours hour on the rack.  A Christian soldier who has faced Giant Goliaths and won impressive battles may be defeated by a note of criticism in a fellow believer’s voice.

Real or imagined.  Satan is great at interpretations.

Once upon a time we had neighbours who attended the same church we did, two men who shared an apartment.  The older one –I’ll call him Fred – helped the younger fellow to get back on his feet after some homeless years and loved him like a son.  Fred had serious health problems and couldn’t work, but the younger man held down a fairly simple job, so between them they could get by.

These two had a weakness, though: impulsive shopping sprees.  And they weren’t earning as much as they tended to spend.  This led to a sad situation: they maxed out their credit cards.  Which led to the disagreeable reality of creditors demanding payments they couldn’t possibly make.  Which led to unbearable stress and struggles in their Christian lives.

The brethren were wondering how best to help them and at one point they got together, chipped in, and paid the bills, leaving Fred and his “son” with only one manageable bill to pay.

I knew they were struggling to make ends meet – Fred made no secret of that.  I knew that the brethren had discussed the situation, but I wasn’t aware of the final outcome.  So one day when I was talking to Fred on the phone and he was telling me (complaining, if I remember rightly) that the younger fellow had to work so many extra hours right then.

I replied with, “Oh, well.  It helps to pay the bills.”

On my part this was a generic comment: if you have bills and need to pay them, the extra work will give you some much needed cash.  I hung up soon and never thought a thing more about it.

What Fred heard–or understood–was, “It helps to pay the bill.”  As in the BILL he and his friend owed to the brethren.  He thought I was implying they’d better pay that off.

I don’t know just what pebbles the devil threw in his path during the rest of the day.  Maybe he whispered, “She knows all about the bill you fellows owe.  Probably by now the whole conference knows about it, too.  Everyone thinks you’re a pair of wasters.”

Or maybe Satan suggested, “She’s nagging you to pay up.  She probably thinks the brethren should never have helped you two out in the first place.”

Apparently as the evening wore on he got more and more upset thinking about this.  For lack of an “S” he spent a miserable night.  The next morning he called our pastor and told him all about it.

Our pastor called me to see what I’d said.  I was stunned when he said  “Fred’s really upset–says he’s hardly slept all night thinking about your remark.”

I explained the conversation as I understood it, so he said, “You’d better talk to him and clear this up.”

So I called Fred and asked him how he was doing.  Of course I got the full blast from him, so I explained that I hadn’t meant anything at all.  He was certain I’d been referring to their “bill” and I told him I didn’t know anything about their financial affairs other than what he often said about being short of funds.

He did believe me and we got it all smoothed over – and it’s better that way then if he’d gone around seething and simmering for months without saying what was bothering him.

Now, can I say that I have never lost sleep over such a misunderstanding?  Or the tone of someone’s voice?  Or a look?  No, I have to admit I’ve taken some very broad jumps to conclusions over the years – and landed in a tizzy.

Anymore, when I find myself upset over some issue and my mind gets stuck on replay, I start to look for the devil wrapped in my thinking somewhere, magnifying perceived insults, adding shades and implications.  Many times I’ve appealed to the Lord to cast out one of these troubling spirits.

And I can tell you it’s terrific how offenses shrink and feelings settle when Jesus steps in and takes control!

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