Here in the Midwest we’ve come to the part of winter we call the deep freeze. Moving from December to January is the difference between a cold refrigerator and a bitter-cold freezer. In December I can leave a can of Coke in the car overnight, and it’ll be delightfully cold for errand-running in the morning. In January it’ll be a Coke-brick.
Weathermen cheerfully tell us tonight’s wind chill will be fifteen below zero, which means when I’m walking Jack just before bedtime my nose will stick together and gloved fingers will sting. People my age who plan ahead are often settled in Arizona or Florida by this time of year, having forgotten all about down-filled coats and fur-lined boots. The rest of us are learning the definition of “hearty” and are finding out whether or not we are.
Today I decided to pick up the red Christmas welcome mat lying outside my front door. But when I grabbed it, it was stuck to the flagstone, frozen solid. Forcing it would have either ripped the rug or given me a bad back.
I could have flooded the area with boiling water, waited for the rug to thaw and then pulled it up just before it froze again. But that would have left the front step a danger zone of slippery ice. The wisest choice was to admit the time wasn’t right to pick up the rug and to wait for a thaw in the weather.
Most of us can “force an issue” prematurely with expertise. In the category of parenting alone, I can think of many examples. We force our kids to eat their broccoli, floss their teeth and read their Bibles before they’re ready, never giving them a chance to choose these good things on their own. We coax them to take music or sports lessons they may not want, and we promote friendships they don’t enjoy. We push them toward colleges they didn’t choose and are sure we know who would make the perfect marriage partner.
Our skill at doing things too soon also spills into our spiritual lives. We succumb to the temptation to tell God what he should and shouldn’t do in our lives based on what we see at the moment. Most often it’s to our benefit if he doesn’t comply but acts instead on his own long-range view.
Even as we pour out our needs to him, we should do so with caution, knowing we might be getting ahead of ourselves. We may say, “Give me traveling safety, Lord,” while he’s planning to use our upcoming fender-bender as a useful teaching tool.
We may get stuck wondering why God doesn’t give us our way, why the proverbial “rug” won’t come off the frozen ground right when we want it to. He’s probably just waiting for our hearts to thaw. When they finally do, and when he deems the time is just right, the “rug” will lift with virtually no effort at all.
As for my red welcome mat? I guess I’m ready for Valentine’s Day.
“God catches the wise in their own craftiness, and the schemes of the wily are brought to a quick end.” (Job 5:13)