Saturday, August 21, 2010

A mother's meddling fingers

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 117-118:18

TO CHEW ON: "It is better to trust in the Lord
Than to put confidence in man
It is better to trust in the Lord
Than to put confidence in princes." Psalm 118:8-9

“Did you remember to show your class message to Mr. Jones?*” I asked my 17-year-old son We were in the car, driving him to a friend’s house to spend the night.

A slight pause - then, “A little story about that. I won’t be giving it.”

“What? Why not?”

“Mr. Jones went through it. Said it was too casual. Wanted me to change it. I thought about it, but then I decided, ‘No. This speech is me.’ So he said, ‘Do you mind if I get someone else to do it?’”

It was a warm Wednesday evening in mid-June and high school life was winding down for Ben. Today had been his last day of classes in Grade 12 at the Christian school he’d attended for six years. The next day he had a ride to the summer camp for a several-day counsellor training session. All that was left of school now was provincial exams in about a week, then graduation at the end of the month.

He’d felt honoured when fellow students voted him to give the class message at the grad ceremony. I’d seen him work on it several times in the last few days, though he hadn’t wanted me to read it (“It’ll be a surprise for you, Mom.”) Today he was to have had it vetted by Mr. Jones, the vice-principal.

Now my husband, Ernie, and I exchanged worried glances.

“How do you feel about this?” I asked Ben.

“Oh, I’m fine with it, I guess,” he said lightly, although there was something in his face that told me it bothered him more than he was letting on.

“Can we read it?” I was determined to see for myself what the kid thought he could get away with.

“Yeah, I guess,” he said. “I won’t be giving it now so it doesn’t have to be a surprise. Why do you want to, though?”

“We’d like to see what you wrote,” Ernie replied, “and see if you’ve been fairly dealt with.”

“Don’t phone the school,” Ben said. “I’ll handle this.”

“We wouldn’t do that unless we had your permission,” his dad assured him

I went straight to the computer when we got home, found the speech, printed and read it. To be sure, it began casually enough with, “Hey, welcome here,” instead of the customary “Good evening ladies and gentlemen.” But as I went through it, I failed to see what had caused the VP’s reaction. It was positive about the school, complimentary to the teachers and full of school memories. It was funny in Ben’s way with word-play, the odd ‘in’ joke and, all in all a great speech for a 17-year-old boy.

“Here, you read it,” I said, giving it to Ernie and then, after he’d finished, “What do you think?”

He shrugged. “It’s fine. Actually, it’s a good speech.”

“I’m going to phone Mr. Jones,” I said. “They can’t do this to him.”

“Uh, wait a minute.” My husband stopped me. “Remember we promised we wouldn’t phone.”

“Hmm!” I muttered. “I’ll get Ben to change his mind.”

I dialed his friend’s number and got through – to a busy signal. I tried again. Still busy. I must have punched “Redial” 20 times in the next 45 minutes but only got that bzzz, bzzz, bzzz.

Finally at ten o’clock and now too late to call anyone about such a matter, I stomped off to bed, thinking dire thoughts about Mr. Jones, the school and even the student, whomever he or she would be, that would take Ben’s place... and how would I ever sleep with my mind in such a turmoil?

“God,” I prayed, “what do I do now?”

Words that had been hanging around the edges of my consciousness for the last 45 minutes came into focus. “The Lord will fight for you...” That was a Bible verse. Where was it? A few minutes later I’d found it. They were God’s words to Moses when he was facing the Egyptians: “The Lord will fight for you and you need only to be still” Exodus 14:14 (NIV).

“God, are those Your words to me for this situation?” I asked. Secretly I doubted that He could (or more truthfully would) do anything to change this mess. But, I decided, I didn’t have any other options. So, with those words ringing in my head, I fell asleep and slept surprisingly well.

However, the battle wasn’t over, at least not for me. Next morning on the drive to work, the unfairness of the situation swept over me again. Without consciously realizing what I was doing, I watched scenes play in my head. Mr. Jones was holding out his hand for me to shake at graduation and I was ignoring it and treating him with total disdain. That would show him to treat my son that way! In fact, I would never talk to him or his wife again and...

I caught myself. What was I doing? I was again manipulating to get my way - in my imagination at least. If I was truly offering this situation to God, wasn’t it important for me to have the right inner attitude as well? I pulled my thoughts back to last night. If I wanted God to fight for me, I knew that I needed to stop fighting for myself in every arena, even in my thoughts.

Despite my resolve, the inner battle continued. At times the impulse to brood on how I could fix things was so strong, I felt I was being physically wrenched. I began to realize that part of the reason relinquishing control here was so hard for me was because running interference for my kids had become an established pattern in my life. “No I will not go there,” I told myself every time my wilful imagination tried to sneak in another vengeful thought. “God can work things out without my help,” I would remind myself yet again and imagine physically taking responsibility for this situation off my shoulders, like one slips out of a backpack, and handing it to Him.

Slowly the tide turned. In fact, five days later, when Ben returned home I was completely resigned to the fact that at the grad ceremonies in a few days, I’d be listening to someone else give the class message. And I was perfectly prepared to talk to Mr. Jones with not a hint - in look or body language - of animosity toward him.

Tuesday morning Ben went to school to write his first provincial exam. Lunchtime came, one o’clock, two o’clock. I was beginning to worry when the phone rang. It was Ben.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“Mr. Jones and I are working on my speech.”

I almost dropped the phone. “What...?”

“I’ll explain when I get home.”

It turned out that without Ben bringing up the matter, Mr. Jones had approached him about delivering the speech after all. And, wonder of wonders, now Ben was ready and willing to make some of those changes that would make his speech acceptable.

“Oh God, thank you!” I prayed, as I thought of how my interference would have botched things up. As a result of my silence, my up-to-now good relationship with Mr. Jones had not changed as I’m sure it would have had I talked to him when my temper was hot. Ben had come around, without nagging by us, to willingly edit his speech. But most important, I had seen what God could do without the help of my meddling fingers.

*not his real name.

(This true story was first published as "A Mother's Meddling Fingers" in the ezine Christian Women Online, May, 2006)

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me put difficult situations, indeed, situations of all kinds, into Your hands (and leave them there). Amen.

MORE: You may want to memorize...

If you are like me, the impulse to fix things in my own way kicks in powerfully in crisis moments. So at such times, it helps if I have ammunition ready. If you have the same tendency, you may want to memorize one or several of these assurances of God's help:

Exodus 14:14
Psalm 40:4
Isaiah 57:13
Psalm 118:8-9

Do your 8-12-year-olds have daily devotions? Point them to Bible Drive-Thru.

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