Irritating People!

Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem

Have you ever had a person in your life that simply pushed your buttons whenever you were around them?  Perhaps you might just have one in your life right now!  There is just something about that person that gets under your skin.  They may be antagonistic toward you; treating you with scorn and perhaps even hatred.  You say to yourself, “What’s wrong with that person?  I get along with everyone!  Why can’t they get along with me?”

The truth of the matter is that all of us have such persons enter our lives periodically!  This article will not deal with the possibility that each of us might also be that person who pushes someone else’s buttons, which of course, couldn’t be possible since we are so very loving and kind all of the time:>)

Instead of dealing with that irritating person, we might decide to avoid them after condemning them in our minds.  Our hearts can become filled with judgmental thoughts and we may end up despising them in our avoidance.  That in itself doesn’t sound very spiritually helpful to us.  In fact it sounds quite detrimental to our spiritual well-being.  And yet, I find it so very easy to go there when that “someone” crosses my path.

Here’s a conversation between two people about this very topic.  I hope they won’t mind my sharing these thoughts with all of you.  Here’s some of what was said concerning such an irritating person (with some slight changes to keep it confidential):

“I had always thought of myself as being able to at least attempt to be cordial with people whose personalities conflict with mine.  This person seems like the first person in my life with whom I have not “gotten along.”  However, upon reflection, I realize that judgmentalism is not the root cause of this issue—pride is. Pride at thinking I have this amazing ability to be loved by everyone.  Pride that I also have this amazing ability to be “nice” with people that I don’t particularly like.  This is the main reason my judgmentalism is as bad as it is.  Basically, it comes down to one thing: I’m offended that this person doesn’t get along with me.  This person has wounded my pride.” 

Here’s the response that took place:

“It appears the Lord has given you amazing insights as to the root of the issue with this person.  Pride is so very often the culprit in my own life as well.  Humility is usually not a gift that is plopped in our laps…rather it is something we have to practice over and over again.  We have those opportunities every day…perhaps every hour of every day.  To listen rather than think about what gem I will say next; to help rather than walk on because I am so very busy with self; to answer gruff words with kind words, even when everything within me wants to tell it like it is…and so on goes the list of our opportunities.

This may be hard to wrap your mind around right now (hindsight is so much easier than the current situation), but (and I’ll make this a question):  Could it be that God has placed this person in your life for your salvation?  Don’t look at me that way!!  This is such a great opportunity to love your enemy, bless that person who may be cursing you, do good to that person who may even hate you, and pray for that person who may spitefully use you and persecute you.  Hey, that wasn’t my idea…but the One who said it had in mind our very best.  Again, this takes practice…and now you have every day to practice these things with someone you have to be around.  What a gift from God!

This “irritating” person is the product of all the things that he/she has been through in life.  That person may well be hurting inside with many emotional and spiritual scars that continue to cause pain in the depths of their soul.  God may have put you in that person’s life for a good reason as well.  You may be a part of their healing and their salvation too.  You may or may not ever see any changes, but that isn’t your responsibility.  If you can look through all the defenses and walls to see the person that God cares about, then you will be able to love, bless, do good, and pray for him/her. Could it be that this is the opportunity that God has placed before you?  May the Lord give you strength as this stuff is so very hard to do!!”

Consider the last line of that wonderful prayer we pray during Great Lent:

LENTEN PRAYER OF ST. EPHRAIM

O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power, and idle talk. 

 But grant rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to Thy servant.

Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions and not to judge my brother.  For blessed art Thou unto the ages of ages…Amen.

Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem

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Storms of Life

Storm 3

Many years ago, a farmer owned land along the Atlantic seacoast.   He constantly advertised for hired hands. Most people were reluctant to work on farms along the Atlantic. They dreaded the awful storms that raged across the Atlantic, wreaking havoc on the buildings and crops.

As the farmer interviewed applicants for the job, he received a steady stream of refusals.  Finally, a short, thin man, well past middle age, approached the farmer. “Are you a good farm hand?” the farmer asked him.

“Well, I can sleep when the wind blows,” answered the little man.  Although puzzled by this answer, the farmer, desperate for help, hired him. The little man worked well around the farm, busy from dawn to dusk, and the farmer felt satisfied with the man’s work.

Then one night the wind howled loudly in from offshore.  Jumping out of bed, the farmer grabbed a lantern and rushed next door to the hired hand’s sleeping quarters.  He shook the little man and yelled, “Get up! A storm is coming!  Tie things down before they blow away!”

The little man rolled over in bed and said firmly, “No sir. I told you, I can sleep when the wind blows.”  Enraged by the response, the farmer was tempted to fire him on the spot. Instead, he hurried outside to prepare for the storm.   To his amazement, he discovered that all of the haystacks had been covered with tarpaulins. The cows were in the barn, the chickens were in the coops, and the doors were barred.   The shutters were tightly secured.  Everything was tied down.  Nothing could blow away.  The farmer then understood what his hired hand meant, so he returned to his bed to also sleep while the wind blew.

 AND THE MORAL TO THIS STORY:

 When you’re prepared, spiritually, mentally, and physically, you have nothing to fear. Can you sleep when the wind blows through your life?  The hired hand in the story was able to sleep because he had secured the farm against the storm.

We secure ourselves against the storms of life by grounding ourselves in the Lord.  This comes about through our faithful attendance at Church, through our prayer life, through our study of the Holy Scriptures, through our putting our faith into action each day, etc.

We don’t need to understand, we just need to have faith to have peace in the middle of storms.

I had intended to stop with that story.  It seemed like such a nice Upword Glance.  But I’ve been in storms and been with folks in storms that make this story seem way too simplistic.  Here’s another page of thoughts…for those who don’t seem to be able to sleep through the storm.

So what about the storms that may be currently raging in our lives? When it comes to putting this to the test, we can suddenly feel like a total failure.  After actually going over matters a few times trying to see where we might be failing…we find that we are definitely not sleeping through this storm in our life…gracious sakes, we are not even close to sleeping through the night.  But wait, if we honestly feel that we have done the right things…spiritually, mentally, and physically in our life… then WHY has this storm ravaged us… WHY?

It dawned on me that in life…just like in the world…there are storms we know we should prepare for and we are foolish if we don’t.  Here in Colorado, we should be prepared for a heavy winter storm all winter…our house should be prepared for both the extreme cold and the heavy snow that could be on our roof any day or night.  Being prepared for that is not rocket science.  Some people still don’t get prepared, but most of us do.  So the man in the story was prepared for the storms that he knew could come his way.

But if I asked people around my town here in Colorado to be prepared for a 9.5 earthquake, or a tornado ripping a half mile swath, or the local river flooding a mile out each side of it banks??  Come on Father… that’s crazy… that has never happened in our town…what are the odds of that kind of thing ever happening around here?!!!  You are exactly right…but it is just those kinds of storms…the ones that make absolutely no sense and do not fit into anything we have ever seen before…that can suddenly rip through your life.  At times like that all your preparation can seem so very inadequate…you can only try to hold on to the Lord’s hand and cry out for His mercy and comfort.

Some of you have gone through such horrible storms that make no sense… the death of a young child; an unfaithful spouse; a terminal disease that comes on a loved one; a pregnant young teenage daughter; a son in jail; a dear friend that commits suicide; an ugly divorce; losing your job or career, an accident that leaves your life forever changed… and certainly the list of these ugly storms goes on and on.

There are also smaller storms that catch us unawares: a trusted friend who stabs you in the back to move up the ladder of success; lies about you that can’t be challenged, broken relationships that make absolutely no sense to you; a serious injury that comes from out of the blue; being punished unjustly or unfairly (this is one we can hold on to from way back in our childhood), …and this list also goes on and on.

If you find yourself in a horrible storm or even in a smaller storm, you will get a ton of advice from every direction.  Good meaning folks may offer you all kinds of advice: “Suck it up…be tough!” (If I could have sucked it up I certainly would have long before this advice came my way!)  “Don’t take life so seriously!” (Seriously, this pain is destroying my life!)  “You need to repent of sin in your life!” (Do you really think I haven’t gone over every sin I have ever committed and cried out to God for forgiveness!)  Generally speaking, these wonderful words of advice only make the one offering advice feel better!!

It’s important to keep in mind that these folks do mean well, but it isn’t their storm…it is yours.  They aren’t there at 1:30 a.m. when tears are rolling onto your pillow, and your prayers don’t even seem to reach the ceiling, and your heart feels like it is about to burst.  But God is!  No, He probably won’t answer the question “WHY?” no matter how many times you ask him or in what tone of voice you ask Him.  But He will be with you…He may be carrying you when you don’t even know it.  You may be angry with Him and shake your fist at Him…you may even say some unkind words to Him.  But He still loves you and is there for you. He will give you just what you need to make it through the storm.  Will the pain or hurt be instantly gone?  Probably not…but one day when you are able to look back, you will see that He was there and that His love and care carried you through it. The only advice that makes any sense is to grab hold of the Lord’s hand and ask Him to bring you through it.  At that 1:30 a.m. wake-up call, if all you can say is “Lord have mercy!”… or … “Lord, please help me!”… you have said enough!!

May the Lord be your comfort, your peace, your strength, … may He be your everything through whatever storm comes your way.  God bless you… and if possible may all your storms be the kind that you can sleep through!!!