This morning when I went into my kitchen there was a man in the pantry. The man is the 19 year old son of my friend who is going to be living with us for the next five weeks. Even though we know and love the man and he will be returning to his family after he goes to Africa on a mission’s trip with our church in August, his presence in just 24 hours has unearthed a big problem.
The problem is not exclusive to the man living here and in fact, has nothing to do with him. The problem has been around for many years. The issue doesn’t have a simple solution, but having the man here has put the problem front and center which means although I don’t want to deal with it, I should because I know deep down it would definitely be better if I did.
The problem? I am nicer to strangers than I am to my own family. If our rental son doesn’t use a plate to make his sandwich, drops something on the floor or leaves the refrigerator door open too long, no problem. But if one of my kids or Chris were to do the same thing I’d say something really Jesus-like, like “OH MY GOSH, SHUT THE DOOR!!! YOU’RE WASTING MONEY” or “HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO TELL YOU TO USE A PLATE? DO YOU WANT TO VACUUM THE WHOLE KITCHEN, BECAUSE NEXT TIME YOU FORGET A PLATE YOU WILL BE VACUUMING THE WHOLE KITCHEN!” Regardless of what my rental son may or may not do he will get only a smile from me or worse case I might with a sickeningly pleasant voice say, “Oh, the plates are right up here, can I get you one?” or “Here, let me get that door for you.”
Sadly, I am keenly aware that I can put on a good face and bite my tongue around visitors, friends and random house guests. Even more tragic is that my family is even more aware. They see the duplicity of the raging, lunatic, neat freak mom and the woman that shows up when others are around. They know that my tolerance level for their forgetfulness, messiness and humanness is not particularly high for them, but I am quick to give the benefit of the doubt (or minimally keep my big mouth shut) with others. So, what now? What am I going to do for the next five weeks about this almost five decade old problem?
“Dear Lord, I need your help. I need help being more like the woman I am to the man in the pantry than the woman I am to the people I live with 24/7. Please help me to give grace, bite my tongue and be at least as patient with my family as I am with others. Help me to extend the same basic courtesies to them that I would our rental son. Although it’s somewhat embarrassing that the chance to love is simply being more Christ-like to my family (shouldn’t that be easy and obvious?), thank you for an opportunity to look more like you. I am always surprised at the simple, difficult and yet obvious things right in front of me that are the answer to my prayers to be more patient, kind and self-controlled. Thank you for my family and our rental son and that in loving them better, I will do life with less regret, with more of You and I will set a better example of You in me. In Your Name, Amen.”