“It was not what I expected,” I replied when the waitress asked how I liked my chicken vegetable soup. When I ordered, I pictured a bowl with chunks of chicken, carrots and potatoes swimming in clear broth. Instead, the bowl in front of me held a gravy-like substance with huge chunks of potatoes sticking up and tiny bits of chicken sunk to the bottom of the glutinous mess. It certainly was not what I expected.
The waitress immediately asked if I would like to try the beef vegetable instead, and I gratefully accepted her offer. Much better!
Sometimes life turns out to be “not what I expected.” When we marry we picture living happily ever after with this dream of a spouse who waits on us hand and foot. We picture perfect children with ten fingers and toes, good jobs with good salaries and happy family times round a dinner table. But then reality hits. We squabble. We get sick. We lose jobs. We notice flaws in our perfect spouse. Loved ones pass on. Friends turn into critics. We don’t like our job or our boss. Then what?
If there’s anything I’ve learned during my 70-plus years on earth is that every experience of life offers a chance for spiritual growth. Those we like least may help us grow most. The most irksome situations—illnesses, checkout lines, physical handicaps--may grow our patience as we call on God to help us deal with them. He gets to see our hearts and we get to know God best as we tell him our heartaches.
God is trying to grow the fruit of the Spirit in us--love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. We may get in a snit when someone offends us, but that is when God grows self control. Just because we feel grumpy doesn’t mean we grump at others. Just because we don’t agree, doesn’t mean we get a pass on civility.
Parents dealing with rebellious children or children with physical or mental challenges find fertile ground to grow kindness, goodness and gentleness. Difficult bosses offer opportunities to develop love, joy and peace. Rather than let circumstances get us down, look at how God may be working behind the circumstances—in you and in others.
Perhaps God is telling you to show a sweet spirit or perhaps He is telling you to move on, to end a toxic relationship. It’s important to be in tune and stay in tune with God so that you don’t misread His signals. That’s why it’s important to read God’s Word, pray and stay in fellowship with Christian friends. Those are three sources of insight available to us all.
We certainly do not know what this new year holds. But let’s not be dismayed when things turn out to be “not what we expected.” Let’s simply stop, look, listen as we grow the fruit of the Spirit. And who knows, like the chicken noodle soup I ordered yesterday, it may be better than I expected.
Have a blessed New Year!
January 14, 8 and 10:30 a.m. - Shirley speaking during worship at First United Methodist, Millersburg.
February 1, 6 p.m. - Friends of the Heart speaking at David's Community Bible Church, "Tea with Friends."
February 16-18 - Kim and Matt leading Lykens United Methodist Youth Retreat at Camp Hebron.
Click on the link below to comment on how you handle life when it turns out to be "not what you expected."