I just received a new shipment from my favorite caffeine dealer, Birch Coffee in NYC. I wanted to try their Brazilian roast, so breaking out my Chemex, scale, and kettle, I brewed a batch. I’d gotten up early this morning, so I had extra time to take time. With the warm weather, I strolled out to our patio with coffee in hand, sipping carefully the delightful flavor I’ve come to expect from Birch Coffee. Savoring both the cloudless sky and a delightful breeze rustling the edges of the plants surrounding the patio, it was a perfect morning to enjoy café fresca! But, as in most situations when you’re vacationing in your mind but living in reality, it was time to shuffle off to work.
We've been conditioned to handle big issues differently than small ones!
I’ve been making my way through an insightful book called, Creativity Inc. It’s the story of Pixar by one of its founders, Ed Catmull, full of anecdotal lessons on life and leadership. Being both a fan of Pixar and healthy leading, it’s been a great read. The other night I finished the chapter on change where Ed drills down into the depths of our fears surrounding change. One thing catching my attention was his differentiation on handling small and large problems; he says there isn’t any! Running out of toothpaste isn’t confronted any differently than a crashed computer hard drive storing years of work - but we’ve been conditioned to think there is and so for one we are calm and the other we fuss. Fascinating stuff.
With the dawn waning, I gathered my belongings, too many to carry and still maintain proper use of the hands. Making my way out the door and to the truck, I put a few items on the tonneau cover of my pickup as I loaded the cab. About a two blocks away, after a sweeping right-hand turn, I reached for my tumbler of Birch Coffee. It wasn’t there! My mind raced, and I realized I must have left it on the back of the truck! I pulled over, and to my horror, 30 yards behind me, in the middle of the road was the carcass of my coffee - strewn all over the pavement. Lost! Forever lost! What would I do without my Birch?
I share this story with you, in light of Ed’s enlightenment for a practical reason:
I want you to live well!
All of us can think of times when we’ve lost it - when we went temper-tantrum crazy over issues in life. I know I can list a few personal moments in the past months. But at this crossroad, where I envisioned some people just flipping out over lost, gourmet coffee, recalling Ed’s crashed hard drive and the near loss of Toy Story 2, I chuckled.
What if, in every situation, no matter how big, we realized that the complexity of the problem shouldn’t dictate the magnitude of our reaction?
After several years of personal reflection and “flipping out” I believe our responses are indicators of our maturity and faith. If, as a Christian, I truly believe the Bible when it says that God knows our circumstances better than we know the hairs on our own heads (See Matthew 5 through 8, the Sermon on the Mount) and he cares about us far more than we could ever imagine, then crazy, wigged out, freak-outs over spilled coffee, lost car keys, broken windows, dirty laundry and even unkempt children’s rooms should seem just as juvenile as a crazy, wig out over being audited by the IRS.
Wailing and thrashing about doesn't help!
I’m not trying to trivialize circumstances, some of the horrors facing people are too dark even to discuss. I received an email from a friend Monday outlining the sheer maliciousness he and his family are experiencing; things that make angels cringe. There’s evil in this world, and it smacks us hard bringing us to our knees. How we respond to these assaults can be a real litmus test for seeing the depth of our trust in an almighty and eternal God. If I’d thrown myself onto the pavement, along with my coffee, what would I be saying for how much I trust God? And when Hell growls, like with my friend, when we’re confronting evil so dark our blood curdles, wailing and thrashing about doesn’t help.
Do we only trust God only when the toothpaste depletes? Or, is he big enough to handle both the Crest and our terminally ill spouse, cancer-struck child, or when we’re passed over for a promotion, or we’re the recipient of a racial slur or insult? How can we move beyond the adolescent reactions of emotional flailing to deeper, more spiritually mature responses? Here are nine suggestions I want you to consider.
1. Learn the truth about God and how he cares for his people, Romans 8:28-29 is indispensable. (God works all things to the good for those who love him.)
2. Lock into memory some of the promises God has for us when we go through difficult trials. One that helps me is in Isaiah 26:3-4. (God keeps me in peace when I trust in him.)
3. Realize that our hoped-for outcomes aren’t always God’s. His purposes and ways are often vastly different but always better than ours. Isaiah 55:8-9 (for your ways are not my ways, my thoughts are higher than yours, says the LORD.)
4. Choose to live in his truths, not our emotions, and expectations. Psalm 25:5 (guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior and my hope is in you all day long.)
5. Embrace difficulties and unseen endings as the seeds of new beginnings. Hebrews 12:2 (For the joy set before Jesus, He endured the cross, scorning its shame)
6. Realize the best way we grow is through pain. God never wastes it; you shouldn’t either. James chapter 1 is a great reference. (trials produce perseverance and maturity.)
7. Understand, in your righteous suffering, there are many, many more who are doing the same - for the same righteous reasons. 1 Peter 5:9 reminds me of this.
8. Realize how we respond can make all the difference between making a small issue into a gargantuan catastrophe.
9. Strive to be solution minded, looking for ways to adapt and overcome issues - we’ve figured it out how to do it with toothpaste!
I hope this has either helped you pin down a few tactics for better problem engagement or has stirred your thinking in ways you haven’t considered. Life is short and problems are plentiful - whether toothpaste, hard drives or cancer. How will you handle the next one, in light of a loving God and your faith?
Well, it’s getting late and I have to get up extra early tomorrow. I have my dented, scratched coffee tumbler all ready to go. Tomorrow I’m riding my motorcycle!