August 31, 2010
Tuesday, 10:00 a.m.
Letter #149: Humility Makes God Happy
Greetings! In the Self-Confrontation class I’m leading tonight, the lesson is overcoming habitual sins, with an emphasis and examples on anger. Now, I can tell you for a fact that I am not an angry person! Hello? It’s me—I’m likeable, funny, smart, and extremely mild-mannered. It is nearly impossible to get me all riled up. (How do I put this delicately?) My undergarments are neatly pressed and never “in a wad,” so to speak. I’m patient. However, you don’t need Cesar Milan* to tell you that if you poke a dog enough times with a stick, well, he might get his panties in a wad. Or bite.
This week, one of my good friends, Brian—a sweet, quiet young man, who lives to preach and study God’s Word—and his cellie—a man in our Self-Confrontation class!—got into a fight. Hearing of problems between them, I’d met with Brian, and encouraged him to be a peacemaker. I guess his cellie challenged him to a fight one too many times, because basically, Brian beat him around like a bush when someone’s not getting right to the point.
I was shocked to see both guys taken away—Brian in handcuffs, and his cellie on a stretcher. Both are in solitary confinement now. Very sad, actually, and a blight on the entire Christian community here. Just like fingers, if you rub two people together hard enough, they’ll eventually snap, right? “But not me,” I thought.
Well, I serve food trays with a guy who goes by the nickname of “Happy.” He should go by “Silly,” but I oblige and call him whatever he wants.
One dinner this past week, Happy chose to put the pudding on the trays before setting them on my serving table. I was adding two hot dogs wrapped in bread and toasted—one of our favorites, called “Toasty Dogs.”
Well, Happy isn’t usually at that position, and he decided to have fun with it … by sliding the trays on my table until they rammed into the sheet of Toasty Dogs, usually sloshing the items on the tray into each other. The watery cabbage was spilling onto the dry section where I was supposed to put the dogs, and the pudding was combining into a creepy chocolatey-cabbage dessert.
I asked him to please just set the trays down, to please not slide them, to please be careful, etc. I moved my sheet of TD’s away and put a tray of cups in its place. Still, the sliding continued. I finally called out, “Well, I guess we can’t teach an old dog new tricks!” since he was at that new position on the serving line. I knew as soon as I said it that my attitude wasn’t right, but I didn’t care. I mean, here we have the tiniest jobs in the world. I work for only 30 minutes, three times a day, and I get so much extra food I have to give much of it away. And here was someone who should have been working with me, instead of against me … argh! I just ignored him as he mocked me and my concerns, and soon enough, he stopped sliding the trays, losing interest when I didn’t react anymore.
Later that evening, we all went out to yard, as it was my one time per week that I play basketball. Everyone had a good time, and afterwards, several of us paused to gather in a circle for prayer. I happened to be standing next to Happy as we all joined hands.
Someone asked another young man to lead us in prayer, and I wondered why he had been picked. Each of the past five or six times we’ve gathered for prayer, he has been chosen to lead; now I was wondering what the deal was.
“How petty of you, Christopher,” I thought, and then it occurred to me: possibly God was directing this thing. Maybe? “These guys can tell your spirit isn’t right,” I thought.
Then, WHAM! Right in the middle of my little self-absorbed thoughts came the memory verse I’d been working on for this week’s Self-Confrontation class: “If therefore you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, and go your way; FIRST be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.” (Matthew 5:23–24)
Yikes. Like the sharp two-edged Sword that it is, God’s Holy Word cut straight to my heart and laid it open. As soon as the prayer was over, I spoke up and confessed that I wasn’t living the Word of God. I told how I had been offensive to my brother, Happy, and I’d never made it right. I apologized to him and gave him a hug, a huge lump in my throat and tears rolling down my face.
Just this morning, Happy approached me before we started serving trays and told me he’d just, for the first time since being incarcerated, realized how wrong he’d been for beating his girlfriend. I told him I’d pray that God restores Amanda’s hurt heart, and that she finds the Love of God.
Wow … without my apology, I know Happy would’ve never felt safe or confident enough to share what’s going on in his head with me. Praise God!
Thank you for praying for me. Blessings to you!
*The Dog Whisperer