There are times in life when things happen that seem pretty meaningful on the surface but when you look back on them from further down the road of life, you realise that they’re even deeper still. Kind of like one of those icebergs I saw floating around in Glacier Bay, Alaska two summers ago, or the glaciers that cascade into the water, which have so much more going on below than we can see.
Year before last, I spent almost twelve months getting my pride and haughtiness broken way down. I thought it was simply a part of the stripping away process that God was taking me through, leading me to a place that I had never conceived of experiencing firsthand. Since then, I’ve since come to believe that there was more going on in that process than just a re-balancing of my pride to humility ratio.
Being the offspring of a pastor and a teacher, I would say that I come from a solidly middle class background. We didn’t live in fancy circumstances but my parents provided a nice life for my sister and me. We always lived in a way that maintained a minimum standard, especially considering that my mother is a clean freak and every last one of us despises rodents and creepy, crawly things.
However, year before last while I was on what I see now as the second leg of my journey to myself, I suddenly found myself confronted with living in unclean environments that also happened to be far more humble than I had ever experienced before. I was exposed to a daily way of life that is normal for millions, or maybe billions, of people around the world but which had never been even a consideration for me. I found little ways to improve my living situation but mostly I just learned to endure it.
Since that experience of living in very humble circumstances ended over a year ago, I find myself far less squeamish about certain things than I used to be. For example, cockroaches are still on my hit list but in my previous humble living circumstance of getting used to not screaming and running around like an idiot when they appear, I’ve now actually graduated to killing them with my bare hand. True story. To be clear, the few I’ve killed like that are not normal sized; they’re mini Siberian cockroaches (I haven’t seen a regular sized one since I’ve been here and I’m grateful). And I only kill them with my hand when there’s nothing else close by to smack them with; you know those suckers move fast and you have to get them quick before they disappear.
Shocked myself silly the first time I did it. The roach was there, I didn’t have a slipper, shoe or unbreakable item handy so I just smacked it with my bare hand. Wham! Dead. After I did it, I blinked a couple of times, said to myself, “Ahhhhhmmmmmm…well, now…,” then I cleaned it up and continued with my day. It’s happened a few times since then with hardly a pause between the death blow and the clean up.
But beyond my open handed roach murders, my experience of year before last has come in handy in a far more practical way. With my kids.
Kids do the grossest things sometimes. They lick things, including themselves and each other. They suck things, including my pencils and pens that they use when they’ve forgotten their own. They pick things, like their noses, and wipe the things they’ve picked anywhere they please. They throw things down the toilet that have to be fished out by someone. If it’s gross, kids will do it and not even think twice. I’m not a mother and I haven’t spent a lot of time around children so this is all new to me.
Two years ago, I’m reasonably certain that I would have been turning up my nose on a daily basis at the things that children do. But the other day when I found myself gently saying, “No, honey, don’t lick that,” to one of my little kids who was devouring her hand for some reason known only to her, it finally started to dawn on me that the stripping away of pride and haughtiness that I underwent year before last serves a deeper purpose than was originally evident. Two years ago I wouldn’t have touched that freshly licked hand with a ten-foot pole. Now, I’m not saying that I like giving high fives to hands that have been into orifices I rather they stay out of, but I find myself fairly neutral about it these days. Of course, I wash my hands thoroughly after my classes and I try to stay very aware of not touching my face with my unwashed hands. However, that’s not because I scorn my kids; that’s because I’m trying to be smart and stay healthy.
Anyway, I see now that, below the surface of breaking down my prideful ways, God was also getting me ready for the next thing He had planned for me to do. He was giving me an attitude adjustment that helps me to show love to my kids instead of the scorn that I surely would have shown just two short years ago.
I wonder what He’s doing in me now that’s preparation for the future?