For years I’ve recited the same prayer, every morning as I drive to work and every evening before I go to bed: Lord, help me feel your presence and be nicer to people. But my morning prayer is usually interrupted by some nimrod doing 80 in the slow lane who has just cut me off. And more often than not, my evening prayer is preempted by pondering that age-old question: what will I have for breakfast, a smoothie or soy latte?
But hey, God knows what’s in my heart. It’s not like I’m asking to win the lottery or anything (although if you’re listening, Big Fella, that would be nice too). So surely He’d be willing to grant a prayer so selfless.
He hasn’t. And every time I’ve cursed a tailgater, hung up on a telemarketer, or thought nasty thoughts about a slow-moving sales clerk, I’ve wondered afterwards, why can’t I be a nicer person? Why isn’t God working with me? Now, however, I know the answer: it’s not that He isn’t working with me; rather, I haven’t been working with Him.
A two way street
I’ve come to realize that spirituality isn’t something that you pray for and voila! it hits you like a cartoon anvil. Spirituality is something nurtured through prayer and study. Sure I pray. I go to church. But have I ever cracked open the Bible? Ever read a single scripture beyond “In the beginning…“? ‘Fraid not.
I thought that asking for spirituality was enough in itself. Like God would be so grateful to have my attention, He would grant my desire to feel the Spirit and shazaam! I’d be a nicer person, no questions asked. It never occurred to me that I might have to respond and to put some effort into it. Sheesh.
But God does work in mysterious ways. What else would explain how I recently came to join a Bible study group? I certainly didn’t intend to. After conversing with the group leader at church one Sunday, I attended their meeting one evening just to be polite. After all, this group met every Thursday “Must See TV” night. Let’s see, “Friends” or Philippians? CSI or Psalms? What a no-brainer. That’s why I was so surprised to find myself volunteering to bring treats the following week.
Two months later, I now eagerly anticipate Thursday nights, but for the Bible, not the Boob Tube. This Book, I’ve discovered, is kind of interesting. Who knew?
What’s up with this?
And who would have guessed that studying the Bible would result in the unexpected gift of a spiritual boost? I can’t explain why I feel like I’m on the right track. It’s not like I’ve done something grandiose like donate a kidney or house a homeless person. But it occurred to me recently that I seem to have more patience and don’t get so irritated by behaviors that previously drove me up a wall. My short temper appears to be transitioning into empathy and a smile. I might be turning into, dare I say it?
A nicer person.
Seek and ye shall find
Not that I’m there yet, as evident by the unkindly thoughts entertained during a recent run in with my tax consultant. And I still need to work on that whole forgiveness issue, which certain people, like say, ex-boyfriends, make oh so difficult. I also know I shouldn’t be quite so tight-fisted when the collection plate is passed. Okay, okay, so I’m a work in progress. The difference now is that my goal to be a nicer person, a better Christian, seems more within my reach. As it says in Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.”
Which are far wiser words than ever said by Ross or Rachel.