Years ago I was shopping with my sister and her young son, who was probably three or four at the time. It had been a long day, and he’d missed nap time. We walked into one store and he immediately started to cry. He’d seen something he wanted and his mom said no.
I know you know where I’m going with this. Bear with me.
She took his hand and started to walk, but he cried a bit louder. Then louder still. She knelt in front of him to help him understand why she’d said no. But the more she talked, the louder he got until his crying became full blown screaming.
If you’re a parent you probably relate. Shopping with a tired three year old isn’t always easy.
Makes me think about the reaction of so many college kids to President Trump’s election, or the juvenile protests by way too many adults. (really, Hollywood? Don’t make movies for eight years. Most of us won’t miss you. And besides, your greed and egos won’t let you stay away eight minutes, much less eight years)
But here I am throwing stones when I need to take care of a plank in my own eye. How do I, as a Christian adult, react to failure or disappointment, or to someone else’s opinion? How I answer that reveals so much about my character before God and man.
Say what you will about Jacob, he demonstrated some pretty solid character when Laban pulled the old switch-er-oo on his wedding night. Waking up next to Leah must have been a shock. Disappointment? Betrayal? At the very least.
But we don’t read that Jacob threw a fit, or rallied his friends to destroy property, or hid in his tent in a fetal position and sucking his thumb. We see Jacob go to his father-in-law and talk man to man. We see Jacob voicing his frustration, turning around and doing what he had to do in light of the circumstances. It set him back another seven years. Yet Jacob’s handling of his disappointment in this situation has him passing the character test in my book.
It’s unrealistic to insist you always get your way, or that everyone should agree with you, or that things should always be fair. You will fail. People will disappoint you. Someone will cut you off in traffic.
Dear one, you aren’t three any more. Don’t react like you are. As a Christian, you represent Jesus to a world that needs to see Him in you. And they are watching to see if your reactions to failure or disappointment looks any different than theirs.
I have to confess that during my nephew’s tantrum in the store that day, this aunt quietly walked away, putting some distance between me and the noise, and pretending I was interested in the jewelry display.
I’m reminded that Thomas Edison is reported to have said that he found 10,000 ways how NOT to make a lightbulb. I’m sure he was disappointed 10,000 times. But he kept working toward the goal. I’m glad he didn’t throw a tantrum and quit after his first try… or his 9,999th.
I want to keep working toward my goal, too. I don’t ever want my actions to cause anyone to want to put distance between them and me, between them and Jesus because of me. I want to surrender my character to Jesus, to become that new creature He says I can be. I want to handle failure and disappointment and reveal the kind of character that will draw people to their Savior.
Father, I thank you for the convicting work of Your Holy Spirit as I read Your Word. I don’t always react to bumps in the road in ways that honor You. Sometimes I reveal a weak character when I throw a grown-up tantrum that looks very much like a child’s. God, I surrender my life, my thoughts, my actions, who I am, to You and ask You to mold me into a woman of Christ-like character. May people see Jesus in me in every circumstance. And may they be drawn to You by my example. For Jesus’ sake.