Teach me, O God…

Teach me, O God,so to use all the circumstances of my life today that they may bring forth in me the fruits of holiness rather than the fruits of sin.

Let me use disappointment as material for patience;
Let me use success as material for thankfulness;
Let me use suspense as material for perseverance;
Let me use danger as material for courage;
Let me use reproach as material for long-suffering;
Let me use praise as material for humility;
Let me use pleasures as material for temperance;
Let me use pains as material for endurance.

-J. Baillie

When you have to have it… by James Mayo

Not too long ago, people stood outside of stores hours before the workers were scheduled to arrive and even longer before the sun came up to get great deals on… whatever. There were toys, TV’s, telephones, Tupperware and things no one actually needs on sale. Of course, I went to Wal-Mart, although I waited until after the big rush. I didn’t want anything badly enough to go this year. But I did get there right as all of the sales were ending. People were pouring out of the store with huge boxes and carts piled high with every imaginable thing. It makes you wonder about the logistics of Santa’s worldwide present delivery service.

Later, I would walk through the store and see workers with a haunted look to them. They had seen things – things they wouldn’t soon forget. Some of the workers would twitch if someone spoke too loudly. Most of the people would give the police officers a wide berth as they patrolled the aisles. I don’t know what happened in that store, but I’m glad I wasn’t there to see it. I mention this to give some context to what I saw as I first walked up to the store. A man was leaving the store with a single bag. He was unharmed, as far as I could tell. He was also alone. This made me worried. But in the grocery bag he had only one item: Bananas. He had gone to Wal-Mart on Thanksgiving Day during the worst possible time braving hundreds of maniacal shoppers… for bananas.

I can’t help but wonder how that conversation developed at home. I imagine his wife putting the finishing touches on an elaborate dinner – Turkey, gravy, stuffing (or dressing), and half a dozen kinds of casseroles spread all over the kitchen. She has cheesecake, pumpkin, pecan, apple and peach pie cooling on the counter. A veritable mountain of cookies are stacked up, waiting to be demolished. And someone, maybe his uncle, is standing in the kitchen, going over the final list. He checks off all of the items… except… banana pudding! The wife, in an absolute panic, bursts into action. She gets all of the ingredients and works frantically. She yells to her husband, “We have no bananas!” He wittily replies, “Yes, we have no bananas.” He sees that she didn’t get the reference as she gives him a withering glance. So he does exactly what a husband should. “Yes, dear.” And off he goes. Somehow, and no one is quite sure how, he succeeds in getting them. Who knows what time dinner was. It may have been lunch. But here he comes, at 9:00 PM, with a bunch of bananas because that’s what was needed.

Throughout our own lives, we are given moments where we recognize we need something – not something as trivial as stuff or even bananas. Maybe we find that we need patience or faithfulness. Maybe we need more self-control or love in the face of hurt. Whatever it is, in that moment, are we willing to pay the price to get it? Do we “rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3-4) I want to encourage you to fight as hard for hope as you do for bananas, televisions, or so many other, less important things.