A Little Inconvenience
“The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9
I love order. I love plans. I love controlling both. So God brought me to Romania to teach me lessons on “being inconvenienced for Him”.
It began with teaching me how to handle inconveniences in a God-honoring way. Here are just some of the lessons that come to mind.
In Romania, water can be shut off at any time of day for any length of time. We have to forego all water-related activities—cooking, laundry, mopping Ranger’s muddy paw-prints, showering or flushing the toilet--until the water company decides to turn the water back on.
When this happens, God often reminds me, “Do you want to see your children handling these inconveniences in a God-honoring way? Then teach them by your example”.
He reminds me to be flexible--to ‘go with the flow’ (pun intended).
“Every unplanned event is an opportunity for you to display me and allow your children to learn how to handle the unexpected things in life in a God-honoring way.”
Another lesson involved my daily schedule (remember my love for order). I need to be places at specified times. Preparing--and serving--family meals is squeezed between morning and afternoon appointments. On one particular day, I didn’t think I had time for a conversation with a man who is lost and desperately needs Jesus. He busily argued science and why he was a good person. I couldn’t get a word in edge-wise and I thought in my spirit, “Ok, Lord, I gotta go--this is a waste of my precious time. This guy isn’t willing to receive and I need to be somewhere by 1:00pm.”
God replied, “It’s 11:30am and look outside.”.
Reinforcements were coming. Jeje walked in to see what was taking me so long. I explained the situation (in English). He smiled and took over the conversation. The man listened attentively. JeJe used a different approach (I can’t tell you how much Jesus sending His Disciples “two by two” has played out in our lives).
God said, “Can you be inconvenienced for Me? Can you sit here and pray in your Spirit as Jeje shares the Gospel? This man’s soul is at stake. Can you call your kids and tell them what they can find in the fridge for lunch?”
Yes, Lord I can, and I will.
That day the Lord reminded me that my being flexible, and allowing Him to intervene in my daily plans, allows Him to prepare me for the next thing, which often takes the form of unexpected visits and food. A few of our tests:
A relative arrived and proudly gave me a dead, skinned rabbit--yes, some people really enjoy eating them here. The Lord reminded me to smile and graciously accept the gift, as it is honoring to Him and a witness for Him. I was already in the “be prepared for anything” mode. No, I didn’t eat the rabbit – but I thanked the family member and smiled. He left feeling good about his gift, and that’s what is important.
Another time, in the middle of cooking a fantastic meal for out of town relatives, they arrived with a pot of food already made. Yes, they carried those cabbage rolls on the bus, along with a fully de-feathered, intact, chicken carcass (head and feet included). The wife, who is reputed to be a terrible cook and isn’t known for cleanliness, expected us to eat her food and cook that chicken. I smiled and thanked them for their gift. They felt great and honored, and that’s what is important.
On a different occasion, we were ready to begin dinner when a neighbor brought slices of her freshly baked rum cake for dessert. I know from experience that I don’t tolerate even the smell of rum and, honestly, that cake didn’t fit my idea of healthy food. However, Romanian etiquette demands a sample taste and gratitude for the gift. I must decline the taste, but express my gratitude (with profuse superlatives) for her delicious gift. “How incredibly kind and gracious of you, to think of us and share your cake with us.” My neighbor left feeling great about her cake, but convinced I’m an American who can’t handle her rum.
Finally, there is the dear neighbor who likes to bring us his homemade cow cheese. I love fresh cow cheese—when it’s made with clean hands. Unfortunately, his are filthy, but he will expect a full report on how much I enjoyed this cheese. God always reminds me to consider the huge financial sacrifice our neighbor makes in giving us this big block of cheese. I’m overcome with thanksgiving for his gift and let him know. He left feeling so great about his being able to bless our family with that cow cheese. I will take one tiny taste to ensure my honest response when asked. “It tasted great.”
It has taken hard-core training for me to learn to handle these situations in God-honoring ways. I don’t like re-taking tests. I want to nail them on the first go around. Unfortunately, this was a lesson that needed to be re-taught over and over and over.
You see, I grew up an only child, where I controlled my environment. I didn’t have to share. I didn’t have to consider anyone else’s feelings. My toys were my toys. My dollhouse was arranged perfectly. I was “the captain of my ship”. If I didn’t like something, I told you and that was the end of it.
As I grew older, I carried these personal preferences into my adulthood. I made plans—my way, on my terms and in the way I deemed fit. If people wanted to join in, great. If not, no worries. I didn’t need to be inconvenienced or bothered.
But, the heart of God is not for us to be alone or control our environment in a way that shuts others out. God patiently waited for me to surrender my plans for the future, and the way it would be worked out for me and my family.
More importantly, it began in surrendering my heart in exchange for his--asking him to give me his heart for others. After all, as God’s disciple, I want to be obedient to him. In doing this, the two greatest commandments are fulfilled:
“Jesus said to him, You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend the whole law and the prophets.” Matthew 22:37-40
When we love God and love others as ourselves, we are obedient. His commands are not burdensome; they bring peace and balance to life and home, and so much more--including seeing people being exposed to the Gospel.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to have plans which bring order to our sometime chaotic lives; but there must always be a submission to God’s authority over them. He’s interested in every remote detail and corner of our lives.
God doesn’t measure big or small. He wants us to surrender all the circumstances to His authority—his Lordship. When we handle the unexpected curve balls and inconveniences of life with the grace and wisdom of God, Jesus is greatly magnified. Our example proclaims the Gospel to a watching world and demonstrates his love and power to the most important disciples entrusted to us, our children.
by Coleen Jejeran, Missionary to Romania