On Friday I began telling the story of an unforgettable vacation that my family and I “endured” when I was 18 years-old. My dad decided that the perfect vacation spot for us that year would be none other than the Big Apple: New York City!
It was, indeed, a culture shock for this small-town boy from Europe, and by the end of the first day of honking, traffic, crowds, etc., I was completely spent. It had been an education, for sure. And not of the most positive kind! My English vocabulary now contained many new words. Unfortunately, when I tried them out on native speakers, their responses were ones of total shock. Apparently the majority of the new words I learned from the streets of New York that day were actually not the kind that should be repeated…
As evening finally came on, my mom looked even more tired than I felt. My dad, however, was in his element. He couldn’t stop raving about how much he was enjoying New York. Would he ever stop for the night???
We were relieved when he finally checked us into our hotel. It was a good hotel with maximum security. I couldn’t help wondering why that maximum security was so necessary. Especially the 4 locks/deadbolts on the door! But my mom and I quickly settled in to our room. We hung up our coats and pulled our shoes off of our aching feet, then we sat down in the overstuffed chairs and put our feet up on the ottoman. Meanwhile, my dad was putting his hat on. Apprently he wasn’t finished experiencing the Big Apple!
My mom was not happy with him. “What if something happens to you while you are out there? New York City isn’t a safe place at night!”
My dad just laughed. “Nothing is going to happen!”
My mom knew his stubborn stance, and tried her argument from a different angle: “What about us? We don’t feel safe going out there!”
My dad laughed again. “If you don’t want to go out, then stay here!”
My mom wasn’t finished yet: “But we don’t even feel safe here!”
My dad wasn’t taking this seriously. “There are four locks on the door! Just lock all of them! No one will be able to come in!” And after giving her a quick kiss and winking at me, he left the room.
I secured all four locks and looked over at my mom. There was nothing we could do except wait for my dad to come back, and we proceeded to do just that. I got sleepy pretty quickly, and I went to bed. I admit that I didn’t even hear my dad come back. All I know is that he was there in the morning.
My mom tried to sleep as well, but even as tired as she was, she couldn’t relax. Not until my dad returned…
As I read back over this story, it looks like my dad was being incredibly selfish. He wasn’t. Not at all. My dad wasn’t a selfish person. He was simply not tuned in to our fears, and as a result, he caused us — especially my mom — needless worry. How much better for her if he had simply read her body language and taken her spoken concerns seriously. It was true that nothing happened to him — or us. Nonetheless, he could have done a lot to reduce my mom’s stress by simply listening to her.
I’m pretty sure all of you have been in similar situations. Situations where you feel you aren’t being listened to and your concerns are not being taken seriously, yes; but also situations where you, yourself, are unaware of the feelings and concerns of those around you. I know I sure have been in that situation a number of times! And if I would have simply put my own agenda aside long enough, I could have saved needless worry and stress to those around me!
How much better to treat everyone with love, the love of God, rather than always pushing our own agendas! This is why Jesus gave us the following command: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35 NIV). And if we were to always follow this command rigorously, we would always be in tune with the needs of others.
I think that we also find ourselves in similar situations with God. How often don’t we put our own agendas above His? We are so focussed on what “we” want to do, that we don’t heed His words of warning. How much happier we would be if we did! Isn’t this why the world’s wisest man tells us: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Prov. 3:5-6 NIV)?
The next time you find yourself in New York City — or anywhere, for that matter! — be sure to tune in to the needs and fears of those around you. When you do, you will definitely help to ensure that they sleep well … Even amidst the noise of a big city!
And the next time you find yourself wrestling with God about something that you want to do, be sure to trust in Him with ALL your heart, including that part that wishes to pursue your own agenda. Don’t lean on your own understanding, but submit to God! For when you do, you will ensure that your paths will be straight!
In His Love,
(To access the entire “New York, New York!” devotional series, please click here!)