“Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” (Joshua 1:9)
“We must become the change we want to see.” Gandhi
Israel had just lost Moses, the greatest leader, ever. Moses was a prophet and talked to God in a form no other man had seen. Moses was used as an instrument of God and forced Pharaoh to free the Israelites. The fledgling Israelite nation witnessed many acts of God while wandering forty years through the wilderness, including manna from heaven. Of the original group that left Egypt, only a handful of the adults remained. Responsibility was then handed over to Joshua, who had to have some reservations about how he could fill such large shoes. So God commanded him, giving him courage to lead.
Recently, I had the dubious pleasure of reading a post on Facebook, spewing venom about President Obama. While I am not a person who really cares about politics, I thought her comments unfair and harsh. But, I refrained from commenting, thinking that would only give the situation more attention than it warranted. No use fanning the flame. But then someone else commented and summed up the matter nicely, dousing the flame altogether: If you don’t like what he’s doing, run for office and become president yourself! I thought, “Wow – good point!” She pointed out that while she does not agree 100% with President Obama, he has a tough job.
She put the responsibility for change, square in the lap of the original author of the post. Sometimes, we get so caught up in looking at what others are NOT doing that we forget what we CAN do. We always have choices and therefore, a measure of control. If you hate a situation, change it. If you can’t change it, deal with it. We cannot control others behavior. We cannot control a lot of events that happen in our lives. But we can control how we deal with it. We rail and we rant and cry because we feel like matters are out of our control. It’s not fair that we don’t have more control, we think. But we have more power than we realize. Rather than assign blame, which gets us nowhere, ask “How much control do I have? What can I do?”
God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
I vaguely recall an episode of the Simpsons where Bart and Lisa sat in the back of the car and he kept poking her. The dialogue went something like this: Poke. “Quit it.” Poke. “Quit it.” It just went on and on. The poke er never got tired of aggravating the poke ee. Although Bart was only poking his sister to bug her, sometimes God pokes us to get our attention and stir us to action.
One Sunday, as we were heading home from church, I polled the kids to see what they wanted to eat. One wanted McDonalds and the other White Castle. I really wanted them to choose just one so we would only have to make one stop but this once, I gave in. I reasoned that we could go through McDonalds drive thru first and then actually eat at White Castle, as they had a “kids eat free” special. So we followed through with our plan; I stepped up to the counter at White Castle and gave my order, asking the young lady about the kids special. She looked confused and asked me to wait while she spoke to a manager. I was confused, too. What was the problem?
She turned to the manager and said, “She has two kids, so she gets two meals, right?” The manager said, “Yes.” And that’s how I found myself with an extra meal, sitting in White Castle. Wow. I couldn’t believe the luck. The kids could eat more, I could take the remains for lunch the next day or we could eat it later – it was just extra food. Cool. As the kids ate, an elderly, homeless man sat next to them, talking and playing with them. He was sweet and they seemed to enjoy his company rather than fear him. He seemed harmless enough.
It suddenly occurred to me that the extra food was not just extra food for us. It was for him. The whole chain of events that deviated from our normal pattern and brought us to eat inside White Castle, rather than drive thru – even indulging the kids by taking them to two separate restaurants, now made sense. Scary sense. Wow. Could God be using me?
So I offered him the food. He politely declined and continued to play with the kids. Okay. Did I get it wrong? Still, I felt something poking at me – disturbing me, stirring me into action. It would not let me rest. Poke. Do it, a voice urged. Poke. Do it. I know, Lord, I reasoned. But he rejected me! I don’t want to risk offending him. Poke. But he doesn’t want it, Lord. Poke. Seriously. Mentally, I’m wiping my face in frustration. Clearly, God is asking me to do something that this fella doesn’t want or need. Perhaps I am mistaken. Maybe he just looks homeless.
We finished our meal and I gathered up our mess, realizing we had exactly the makings of the extra meal left over. Untouched. One drink, two burgers and an order of fries – which, he didn’t want. Okay. I put the left over meal in a bag to take with us. By this time, the elderly man was at the door. Poke. That gentle but persistent nudging gave me the courage and incentive to give it one last try. I held out the bag to him, hopefully – fearful but praying that he wouldn’t reject me again and make a scene. Please let me get it right. I really didn’t want to offend him but I didn’t want to take the chance that I missed the opportunity to obey God. The man reached out and took the bag and thanked me, saying bye to the children as we left.
Whew. I breathed a sigh of relief. And then said a prayer of gratitude as I realized God used me to bless someone! I got it right! Yay! I did a little dance inside my head. I obeyed the voice of the Lord and that made me happy. Yeah. See, I’m not looking to change the world. I don’t have any political ambitions or look to make an impact globally, nationally, or locally. This is in my control. Here is my power. How I choose to live my life daily. How I impact my family and my fellow man. How I leave my mark on this world. I do have power. I have responsibility. I have courage.