Where are you possibly going to put that? asked the husband.
In the office, said his defensive wife, gripping an oversized framed floral print.
It’ll never fit in there, he patronizingly replied.
You know what you are? She shot back. A real buzz kill!
Ikea, for those of you living in the remote Amazon jungle, is an immense Swedish warehouse crammed with mass produced home furnishings you have to put together yourself. Ikea is overwhelming, over stimulating, overly adept at whetting your appetite for hooks, bins, shelves and funky picture frames. Ikea tests every which way one’s resolve to stay calm, rational and within their budget, but when you’re moving, it’s hard to avoid making a trek out there at least once…once, if you’re lucky.
We were in need of some inexpensive loft beds for the girls, so Saturday morning we woke up moderately early and braced ourselves for the hour drive into Illinois and subsequent several hours of navigating display after display of dream kitchens, living rooms, and closets. I had done my homework, however, and armed with my very specific shopping list was determined to protect both my sanity and marriage from the chaos of way too many people mixed with way too many options. Yes, Troy and I were going to rise above the pettiness and tension we’d already witnessed on the first floor of that house organizing mecca. Besides, its Lent you know so I was more on guard than usual, or so I thought, for sneaky sucker punches to my Lenten resolution to remain selfless.
Only twice did I attempt to stray from our plan, having been hypnotized by the colorful area rugs and sensational pendant lamps. But ever so gently did my sweet husband guide me back on course. “You’re right, I agreed meekly. We don’t need all that stuff. How passionless I was becoming, just as flexible as a willow tree! In the check out line, we were smiling with relief and proverbially patting ourselves on our backs. Ha ha! We’d done it! We’d beat the system, leaving with only the necessities, and still quite fond of one another. Even the boys, who we’d dragged along, were still in a decent mood – Good grief! Was there nothing we couldn’t overcome?
Will this be it for you? Asked the cashier, before hitting us with the grand total. Yesiree, it was! I couldn’t wait to get out of there! Here’s our debit card, now just point us to the loading area!
Wait…what? Uh? What do you mean it’s been denied? We just got our tax return back and….ohhhhhhhhh, shoot…our debit card has a daily limit on it, a limit smaller than the cost of two loft beds, two mattresses and a couple of reading lights.
Did you bring your wallet? Troy asked me – the wallet containing our other credit card.
Umm, no, I answered with just a hint of panic in my voice, I didn’t think I’d need it.
And now the cashier was staring at us, the people in line were staring at us. We had become “that couple” they’d all talk about on their way home – the tense couple forced to leave Ikea, after having invested an entire day there, empty handed. See, nothing could be done, the cashier explained to us unsympathetically. It was better luck next time, and don’t let the sliding door hit ya on the way out.
And with that the wall of placidness I’d tried to build over the last two weeks completely and utterly crumbled.
We said nothing to one another for the first 30 minutes, driving in silence except for my sniffling, because, yes, I had started to cry out of frustration. Uuuggh, it was maddeningly disappointing to have wasted the bulk of a weekend, not to mention a half a tank of gas, due to such a silly mistake. I always bring my wallet when I go out. Why not this time? Why in the world did I not bring my wallet…!?
In the midst of my inner raging, I felt a hand on my knee. Well, that was pretty disappointing; Troy said cautiously, attempting to fill the deafening quiet with some much needed perspective.
Yeah, it was pretty SUCK-EY! I snapped, obviously not ready to be mature about it, and not willing to chalk it up yet to another lesson learned. Man, I wrestled with that angst. I mean, C’mon, in the grand scheme of things, it was not that big of a deal but I was mad, mad, mad – mad like Jonah when his shade tree wilted. Mad and struggling like crazy to get to the other side of the anger without offending anyone or allowing it to poison the remainder of my family’s afternoon. God, help me, I implored – It was all I could do to mentally form that prayer, and trust that eventually my heart would come to mean it. This too shall pass, they always say, as it always does. And after awhile of inward fuming and pouting and floor stomping, my ire indeed dissipated. I was even able to laugh about it (a little bit ; ) ) over dinner.
Yes, I was reminded in a big way it’s not the crises that undo me as much as the smaller unanticipated setbacks that grate on my nerves and make my skin crawl like nails on a chalkboard. These hiccups you can’t prepare for are what ultimately reveal our true character, unearthing the buried vices still binding our souls. If what I desire is to eventually become freed from the constricting ties of my stubborn will, I’ll need plenty of opportunities to practice reacting with grace and acceptance when my best laid plans fall through. Let us not forgot that all things are sent by You, I mutter most every morning. Growth requires that I believe that, even when it hurts. Thy will be done, is one loaded and challenging statement of faith for us Christ followers, not to be uttered off-handedly or void of appropriate fear and trembling. No pain (or annoyance, or irritation), no gain when it comes to transforming what is self-serving into God and neighbor-serving.
I’ve got a long way to go yet.
It is necessary most of all for one who is fasting to curb anger, to accustom himself to meekness and condescension, to have a contrite heart, to repulse impure thoughts and desires, to examine his conscience, to put his mind to the test and to verify what good has been done by us in this or any other week, and which deficiency we have corrected in ourselves in the present week. This is true fasting.
- St. John Chrysostom
So now is when I put on my big girl pants by obediently taking heed of that wise advice and reflecting on what I need to work on this third week of the fast, spiritually speaking. – and by viewing my crash and burn moment as the patience-stretching gift it truly was. This is the day, this present day with all its salvific and unforeseen joys and trials, that the Lord has made.
I will redouble my efforts to rejoice and be glad in it.