“Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind” (Job 38:1, NASB)
With my husband’s Saturday chores and projects for the day finished, I spotted my opportunity. I could leave my home and run errands by myself. Yes, that meant no children along for the ride or little people to shuttle in and out of stores. No behavior to monitor or lectures to be given. No looking at products we don’t need costing money I don’t have and saying “no” to children who declare they need them. No driving in the car and reaching over to turn the music down or off every 30 seconds so I could answer a question or solve a sibling dispute.
I could feel the tension in me, in my voice, in my reactions, in the speed at which I was cleaning the house and grumbling (Didn’t I just clean this? How many times do I put these things away every day? Why are there shoes on the floor again and why are they in the middle of the floor? Who walks 4 feet into a room and then decides to take their shoes off?). A birthday party had brought new, exciting, wonderful gifts into our home, gifts that were now being played with all over the floor that I had just cleared of toys the night before.
It had been too long since I had left my home by myself. And so, off I went, list in hand showing what I needed to accomplish. I went to the first store, used my coupon, bought my necessary items, checked it off my list. So far, so good. A little overcast, a slight misting in the air, the wind blowing my hair in my eyes periodically, but nothing too troubling.
Back in my car, I flicked on the radio to my favorite classical music station. Sometimes without children along, I enjoy music without words. Expecting Bach, I heard instead hillbilly rock ( I think). Whatever it was, it was thoroughly un-relaxing. Confused, I scanned through the stations. My music had disappeared and been replaced with what the DJ announced was the “best music in the universe.” I was doubtful. I was also now whining and fretting. What happened to my radio station? Was it an interruption caused by the stormy weather on the way or was this a long-term travesty not just ruining my day, but ruining my future, as well?
On I drove. My spirit rumbling, grumbling, complaining and whining now. I spotted a McDonald’s and was inspired. A large sweet tea for $1 would certainly improve my day and so I ordered and waited. And waited. And waited. Twelve minutes later, they had finally served the person in front of me and I pulled up to the window where a cheerfully apologetic woman handed me the drink that took all of 10 seconds to fix and said, “Sorry for your wait.” I smiled weakly and drove away.
The rumbling in my spirit grew. My wonderful, precious, much-anticipated time out was not refreshing or relaxing or productive. It was ruined by inconvenience and disappointment and impatience.
The sky seemed darker now than before. On the radio, the DJ for the mystery music station announced that in Virginia they were calling for severe thunderstorms, hail and maybe tornadoes. She didn’t say when any of this might happen. She didn’t even tell me where in Virginia this might occur. So, this new radio station has yucky music and unhelpful DJ’s. Just great.
I whined some more.
And then I felt it, a heaviness on my heart, a deep impression that I could not shake—-it was not okay for me to drive across the bridge and finish my errands across the river. I needed to stay in my tiny town, do what I could here and go home. I grumbled to God that this was my only opportunity to complete these errands unaccompanied, that my upcoming weekly calendar was covered from edge-to-edge with things I needed to do and places I needed to be. If I didn’t go now, I wouldn’t get to go all week. I wanted to do what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it.
I complained. The sky was deep gray now. Turning my car around, I drove away from the bridge and finished the errands I could do in town–obeying, but not cheerfully obeying.
Arriving home, I fixed dinner and watched my daughters play with my husband. The power flickered off and on. It rained.
Then, the news came in, pictures, videos, Facebook posts, phone calls to see if we were okay. A tornado had touched down just miles away, hitting the connecting road to our street. The middle school had an entire wing destroyed. Frames of homes had been lifted up and mangled around trees. Our hospital’s emergency room was crowded to overflowing and people were sent across the river for care. People were missing, a few dead. The only hotel in town filled up with families now homeless.
The book of Job describes a man battling his own life-storm–the death of his children and servants, the loss of his livestock and livelihood, and the personal pain of boils on his skin. For almost the entire book, Job and his “friends” talk and talk and talk some more about God. And then God shows up in person: “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind” (Job 38:1, NASB). God spoke to Job through the tornado—perhaps knowing that was the only to make these “talking heads” be quiet. Sometimes God needs to use a raging storm to get our attention and to stop our incessant personal noise and natural bent toward self-centeredness.
After God spoke, Job did the wisest thing a man could do. He said, “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth” (Job 40:4, NIV). And that is what I did in the aftermath of the storm. I stood silent. Hadn’t I just whined because my radio station was missing, because I had to wait for a drink, because I didn’t get to go where I wanted to go, and yet just miles away a family now had no home? Sometimes it takes a whirlwind to put things into perspective, to remind me once again that inconvenience from without and impatience from within have too much power over the attitudes of my heart.
It’s a matter of my misplaced focus. At times, I begin to look only at me, me, me and the things I want and need, and Jesus Christ is no longer the center of my life. Selfishness is at the heart of my whining and complaining about minor annoyances and trivialities.
C.S. Lewis wrote: “From the moment a creature becomes aware of God as God and of itself as self, the terrible alternative of choosing God or self for the center is opened to it.”
It’s a discipline of choosing God over self that takes effort and vigilance. So, daily we must choose to place and replace Christ at the center of our lives, letting Him have full reign over our circumstances and our heart’s responses to them.
Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.
Copyright © 2011 Heather King