“I know he meant to help.” Jane shook the packet of sweetener like a red flag in front of a bull. “But he folded all the towels wrong. I had to redo them all so they’d hang right on the racks in the bathroom before our guests arrived. I barely had time to get my shoes on before the doorbell rang.” She clinked her spoon in her coffee cup a bit a faster. “If he’d only just do it my way. There’s a reason I do things the way I do, you know?”
Her friend patted Jane’s hand. “I know what you mean. Bob tries, but I have to constantly go behind him. He just doesn’t clean the way I like. You’d think after umpteen years of marriage he’d have learned. But, noooo…” She nudged the salt and pepper shakers on their table to line up with the flip folder of desert and drink offerings. “Yesterday, I caught him rinsing the dishes with the sponge I use to scrub the bathrooms. Ugh!”
And the poor husbands who tried to help. Bet their heads hung a bit lower. Maybe they sighed and thought, Why bother? I can never please her. Perhaps. Or maybe they just chuckled inside because, after all, they know their wives. Human relations are a sticky thing. We each have agendas, and none of us are perfect.
But, what about when we try to do something for God? Do we really know how He wants it done? We pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “thy will be done.” Do we mean it, or do we think more often than not, “Please bless my efforts as I do this my way. After all, it’s the thought that counts. I am trying to do this for You the best I can.” And when our efforts turn out less than perfect, we sigh and think, Why bother. I am not the right person for this ministry. God, why did you choose me?
The problem is, like the good-intention husbands, we are doing it the best we can, not not the best way He wants. Our Lord is perfect in all things. He knows the most excellent way things should be accomplished. There is a reason for each thing He allows to happen, each turn He wants us to take on the road, each lesson we are to learn along the way. Yet how often do we try to “do it for Him” and help out without asking Him how He wants it done? If we can learn that His ways are not our ways, and take the time to discover how He wants things done, then the outcome just might be better, don’t you think?
I struggle with perfection, which is silly because, as a human being, that is not a possible goal. But, I am learning if I do my perfect God’s will, and go in prayer to Him often to discover His instructions for the task He has given me, then its outcome is one more worry I can dismiss from my brain. Good intentions are great, but following directions is better.
What if that husband had asked beforehand, “Now tell me how you like the towels folded?” I hope that wife would not have rolled her eyes and huffed, “Never mind. I’ll do it.” I hope she’d have the grace to patiently show him. Their relationship would be a great deal more loving if she did. But then, well, we are all human.
However, we can always go to God and not worry about receiving a heavy sigh or an eye-roll. Even if we have to go to Him more than once and ask for instructions again and again. In fact, I think at least in my case, He wants me to do that. He wants to give me the directions step by step so I don’t try to veer off onto my own tangent and think my way is okay. That just leads to the road for disappointment.
Our patient Lord sees our good intentions, but wishes to perfect them in His grace. So He is always there to correct us, guide us and teach us, no matter how many tries it takes to line up our deeds with His will. So, if the things you are doing for God are not turning out the way you planned, go back to Him and reconnect with His plan. Then your good intentions will be God’s intentions.
That’s the message I found today from God. It is in this prayer –
“Give us the help of your grace, that in keeping your commandments we may please you both in will and deed..” from the Collect for the Sixth Sunday in Epiphany