“My command is this: love each other as I have loved you.”
The Lord has a way of answering our prayers at unexpected times with unusual means. Recently for me, an answer began with a discussion about how to hang up clothes in the closet.
Barb hangs them so the opening of the garment faces right; I have always hung them the opposite way. One evening as Barb was putting freshly ironed shirts in the closet, she asked if I would start hanging my clothes the opposite way, the way she did.
I had had a day filled with details and pressures. I was not ready for a request that would add another detail to my already full plate, and that demanded reversing a habit (and a harmless habit at that!) which had been 50 years of reinforcement.
“What difference does it make?” I asked.
“To me it makes a difference,” Barb replied. As I pushed her for a reason, she continued, “The shirts won’t hang into each other if you put them in like this!”
Well, that didn’t make any sense to me, so I began to let her know that.
“Fine,” Barb said quietly, “Do it as you want.”
That gentle reply cut through my resistance like a hot knife through fat, as the Lord brought to mind a prayer I’d offered earlier in the week: “Lord, help me to serve Barb with joy, to do things which will reduce her stress and help her to be more effective for you.” What Barb had asked for was very small, something that would make her life easier, and here I was resisting. How foolish!
Verses from John 15 flooded my thoughts, “I am the true vine; my father is the husbandman…every branch that bears fruit, he prunes it so that it might bring forth more fruit.” That knife I felt cutting through my resistance was the Holy Spirit pruning off the useless, harmful growth in my life: selfishness, impatience, laziness and pride, to name a few. I want to bring forth more fruit, but often don’t want the pruning that is the prerequisite.
I am thankful that God is patient and faithful to keep working on me, that my dear wife is a patient and gracious soul and that I could repent, apologize to her and hang those shirts in a way that made her life easier.
In this process of growth, God is pleased with us when we submit to Him and to each other in love, and He also gives us wonderful, undeserved benefits. In John 15:11 Jesus says, “These things have I said unto you so that my joy might remain in you and your joy might be full.”
And what did He say right before that? “Let me prune you; abide in me; do whatever I command you.” These are not things that we humans naturally want, but it is obedience that brings what everyone does want: joy.
Prayer: “Lord, help me this day to willingly submit to your pruning so that I may better love others as you have loved me and that your joy may be complete in me. Amen.”