“For God’s sake, chill!”
These cloying words of rebuke from an outside observer were addressed to none other than me as I sat with friends on a beach in Laguna, California, more than 20 years ago. My fellow players of a board game were using different rules than I learned growing up. I hadn’t gone so far as my sister’s ploy when losing to turn the board over to see if it was made in Japan! But I had let my displeasure show enough to register with a nearby beachgoer sunning himself, who called me up short with his, “Oh, for God’s sake, chill.”
How dare this outsider tell me what to do? He had no idea the trouble I’d taken to make this weekend jaunt to the beach possible for the four of us, checking schedules, booking lodging, making the picnic, chilling the beer, and bringing the (expletive deleted) game in the first place. If it weren’t for me, we wouldn’t be here enjoying the sun, sand, surf—and this stupid game!
But this outsider demonstrated that spiritual direction can come from the most unexpected people in the most unexpected places at the most unexpected times.
Though I told him to mind his own business and adopted an indignantly self-righteous attitude, I was immediately ashamed of my lack of generosity of spirit, my need for control, my thinking my friends “owed me” for making our outing possible. “Girl, what was I thinking?!” To think how dearly I loved each of them! Yet it’s the ones we care most about or care most about us that we hurt most often and easily.
“Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,” we say in the Lord’s Prayer. Though we owe God everything, yet we often feel that others owe us for what we’ve done for them.
William Countryman points out in his book Dirt, Greed, and Sex: Sexual Ethics in the New Testament and Their Implications for Today that people in biblical times lived with an understanding of limited resources—there was only so much to go around. Thus greed was the greatest sin, because to desire something for oneself was to take it away from somebody else.
In this context—this world of limited resources—we have stories of Jesus feeding the five thousand and the four thousand from limited resources. In John’s version, he uses a boy’s meager lunch, blessing and breaking the loaves and fishes until there was enough for all.
When feeling less than generous, yearning for credit, expecting a certain outcome from my efforts, it’s good to remember the words of my Laguna prophet:
“For God’s sake, chill!”
Copyright © 2012 by Chris R. Glaser. All rights reserved. Permission granted for non-profit use with attribution of author and blogsite.