From childhood, we learn to tolerate or hide our imperfections and quietly celebrate our successes. We also develop this foolish expectation that each day will be much like the day before. Fairly predictable and somewhat under control.
Prudence bids otherwise. Invisible forces lie in wait to expose our blunders and middling competence. Inconsiderate or unlearned masses block the achievement of our goals, simply due to a lack of skills in, say, driving or ordering a muffin. Somehow, they get in line just ahead of us—nearly every morning. But we’ve learned to tolerate their limitations. We all are flawed creatures from Eden—some more than others, of course.
Beyond that, we’re shocked when people and/or systems operate in some incomprehensible wonderland well outside what we accept as the limits of folly or malice. That’s when Chuck Swindoll’s famous dictum comes into play: expectation is the handmaiden of disappointment.
Take yesterday morning, for example. My friend Dave called shortly after six to tell me he’d be late for the weekly gathering of our small group of stalwarts. When he did arrive, this normally easygoing accountant entered Margot’s Café with a tale of woe. Surely enough to vex the most reasonable of clear-thinking people … It seems that Dave had replaced the battery on his Honda—six days ago. His radio has been dead ever since. The dial gives only a cold, unblinking message: “Error, provide code number.”
It’s may be no surprise that Dave is careful with a dollar. He is also persistent and thorough. It was, if you recall, six days after he bought the battery at a local auto supply store … much cheaper than at the local Honda dealer. Frugal, remember? But this error message had him stymied; he knew he’d have to call the dealer. Their response: “Look in the owner’s manual, maintenance guide, or “something else.” He did all three. No code number.
Another call but with a different person at the dealership: “Push ‘1’ and ‘4’ and reset button—will display your code. Then call us.” Didn’t work.
Back to dealer, a third guy answers: “Push ‘1’ and ‘6’ and reset button.” No dice.
Fourth call to dealer: “Oh, you also need to push ‘Power.’” Voila! A code number!
Dave grabbed his cell phone to bring this frustration to an end. Dealer response: “Um, that number isn’t consistent with our code numbers. Why don’t you bring it down here and we’ll resolve this.”
Now Dave is a smart guy; he knew if he took the code-less radio to the dealer, his Knecht’s Auto Supply savings would evaporate by the time he cleared his throat at dealer check-in. Idea: he called Beaverton Honda (60 miles away). They said, “Oh, it’s in the glove box.”
No it’s not.
Dave’s razor-sharp memory recalled every one of the lebenteen subsequent instructions he tried over the past six (6) days. Go online? Sure. Simply provide two vital pieces of information: 1) His email address and zip code when he bought the car—seven years ago (I’m not making this up.). He couldn’t exactly remember his old email address, and his zip code changed sometime during the past eight years. He guessed close in both cases. Not bad, except close doesn’t count. After two tries, the online help system locked him out. Bad.
Dead in the water. Frustrated, aggravated, and out of control.
Dave looked at us for … understanding? Maybe encouragement? We’d responded throughout with barely suppressed snickers and snorts. We’d all been there.
So Dave still doesn’t have a working radio.
I should say that the unofficial purpose of our weekly gatherings is to be sounding boards for one another, to share what we can about our plans and struggles, to encourage and maybe enlighten, looking to the Word of God. Not a Holy Club; hopefully like iron sharpening iron.
For Dave, the radio isn’t the issue. Dave’s peace of mind is. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). Psalm 55:22 says, Cast your burden upon the Lord and he will sustain you.
It would be nice if the radio worked, and Dave will keep at that code so he can have a radio. After all, men fix things. But to a point. If he’s not successful, he’ll simply drive the Honda into the Santiam River. Just kidding. If we don’t receive the peace that Jesus offers, what good is anything else?
It matters little what happens to Dave’s radio. What matters is what happens to Dave in the process. He and I come from somewhat similar Great Losses in our childhood. We need to allow God to process those losses—sometimes a life-long journey. These exercises in frustration are part of God’s process. Hands off, Sam. Jesus, it’s yours.
Our ultimate objective is freedom, not control.
What about you? Are you trying to prove yourself to make up for past failures or losses? To overcome the belief that you don’t quite measure up? To accept where you are and trust God to move you?
Control? Forget it. That’s a violation of the First Commandment.