Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Where moth and rust destroy

Confession time.  Something I never really knew about myself until I became a parent is that I lose my cool over the destruction of property.  There is no faster way to make me mad than when my kids mistreat furniture, or break something, or make a mess for someone else to clean up.  In my house, the saying there's no use crying over spilled milk ought to be there's no use making someone else cry over spilling their milk.

There were small signs that I had trouble with this - immediately after we purchased our house, we re-carpeted the place.  I yelled at my own father for declining to take off his shoes when he came over to visit.  Recently, Ian threw a high-bounce ball in the kitchen after being told not to, and it exploded into a full cup of juice on the counter.  It was everywhere... floor to ceiling.  We were finding missed droplets for hours afterward.  I stayed upstairs while my pregnant wife dealt with it initially because my blood would just have boiled.  I'm not really a hot-headed person in general, but this issue gets to me.

Take today - this morning, I came into work and discovered that some raucous behavior had taken place in the office last night - everyone in the office found little piles of mulch on their desks and the floor of the bathrooms, there was soap foaming in the atrium fountain, and confetti on the floors.  I was irritated and disappointed in my co-workers, but not nearly so much as the guys out cleaning the fountain were.  Then, I come to find out that my wife has to talk to Ian's teacher today because he disobeyed direct instructions from his teacher and ruined some classroom materials, all to get some laughs from his peers.  Wait until I get home tonight, buddy!  You're writing your teacher a full apology letter.

I look at these incidents and like to feel justified in my righteous anger over the blatant disrespect for other people and their property.  But as I look deeper into myself, I think there's a little more to it than that for me.  I think I am in love with stuff.  Property.  Ownership.  Newness.  Not like the keep-up-with-the-Jones' kind of behavior.  That's much more easily identifiable as a problem. My issue is I often act like I value material objects and their condition over the condition of people.  A more subtle (and serious) variant.

During one of his talks in the Peacemaker series, Ken Sande uses Bill Gates as an example.  He tells a fictional story of Bill going into a meeting one morning and acting surly and treating his co-workers poorly.  When asked what was wrong - Mr. Gates, one of the richest men in the world, replied that he had lost a nickle on the way to work.  How absurd!  Ken's point is that through the redemptive power of Christ, we have all the riches in the universe, and that all these material things we care so much about are just nickles in comparison.  My wise and wonderful wife has adopted this into her daily vocabulary - reminding us both constantly of the worthless nickels we keep focusing so intently on.

The bible reminds us that things of this earth are temporal, and that it's other people that we need to value the most.  Matthew 6:19-21 says:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Lord, grant me the wisdom to recognize the nickles I place so much value on so that I can turn from them and see what's really valuable.  Give me a heart to love other people.  Move my anger and frustration aside when my children act as all children do, and help me to teach them the value of hard work and respect for others.  Thank you for your everlasting patience with me, renewed daily.