Imagine that Sue’s husband, Joe, takes out the trash every Tuesday. It’s his job. Last week he forgot to take it out , and then again this week. He’s usually good about taking out the trash, but Sue tells him, “Honey, you forgot to take the trash out agin.” She says again with emphasis and more than a little irritation.
What’s behind her irritation? Why does she feel compelled to add a twist to the word again? Because it is a hassle to take out the trash. It makes her late for work. If she doesn’t say again, then her husband will keep forgetting. If he doesn’t see that this is becoming a pattern, she’ll be taking out the trash for the rest of her life.
Notice Sue’s underlying assumption: “It all depends on me. If I don’t show him, no one else will.” God is absent from her thinking: consequently she believes it’s up to her to make her husband hear her words. If he doesn’t, she fears she’ll be swallowed up by his forgetfulness. … She refuses to accept the possibility of endlessly taking out the trash on Tuesdays. It is unacceptable.
Sue is in charge of her life, determined to make her kingdom pain free. Even if she prayed, prayer would just be another weapon in her arsenal of control. God would likely disappoint her, and she’d end up bitter at both her husband and God. Ironically, self-will often becomes a self defeating prophecy. The berated spouse pulls back; he not only stops taking out the trash, but he also stops opening up his heart.
Self-will and prayer are both ways of getting things done. At the center of self will is me, carving a world in my image, but at the center of prayer is God, carving me in his Son’s image.
It never occurs to Sue that God might want her to take out the trash for the rest of her life, because to do so would mean she is letting her husband take advantage of her. But isn’t Jesus endlessly taking out the church’s trash? Isn’t this action another way of loving an enemy?
What would happen if Sue puts off self-will? She doesn’t know. How will God intervene in her husband’s life? What does God want to do in her life? What beams will she discover in her own eye? Forgiving her husband would mean losing control.
If Sue surrenders her self-will, she will join Abraham walking up Mount Moriah with Isaac. She will join David as he puts down his knife when Saul is within his reach in the cave. Sue is abiding. She has lost control of the story.
When Sue shifts from self-will to a prayer fellowship, it feels scary, as if she is jumping over air. In fact, she is leaving the unstable foundation of her own self-will and entering the stability of God. She is living out the prayer, your kingdom come, your will be done. Instead of trying to create her own story, Sue will be content to let God write his story. If her husband’s forgetfulness turns into a habit, she’ll be drawn into deeper prayer fellowship. The trash is likely the tip of the iceberg in his life. He might have issues of self-will, laziness, or just plain selfishness. Sue will have fewer words for her husband and more words for God. She’ll also reflect on her own heart. Are there any areas of her life where she does the same thing? She’ll discover Jesus on the other side of the trash can.