Monday, February 5, 2018

Patience and Wisdom... Or the Skunk?

Recently, I saw an image of a skunk eating from a dog’s food bowl, while the poor canine sat there, fully aware of the situation. The caption read as follows:

“Two of the greatest qualities of life are patience and wisdom.”


Indeed, when I was a little girl, our dog, Princess had an encounter of this concept, with unpleasant results. Being half terrier, she loved chasing critters. She’d bring a dead woodchuck or squirrel to our front door many times. And yes, she was also thoroughly engaged in pursuing skunks which occasionally scampered across our farm. Bad idea.

So, we all know what happened next. (“Mom, get the tomato juice…again!”)

As much as we’d like to think we’re smarter than a dog tangled with a smelly skunk, we, unfortunately, still often wrestle with the patience and wisdom thing, don’t we? Impatience, instant gratification drives, unmet need perceptions and shortsightedness are just a few demanding lures which spur us on to our own individual skunk encounters of relapse and self-destruction.

But, c’mon, it’s more tantalizing and supposedly “easier” to get in there with our own way of doing things, right?

We’re in control…

We have a handle on it…

We won’t go “too far…”

(“Mom, please get the tomato juice… again.”)

Scripture cautions our independent, bright idea sort of thinking…

There is a way that seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.”

Proverbs 14:12

Debby downer stuff, yes, but, again, we need these refresher courses, because, well, we have a tendency to get into all kinds of messy trouble. Have you met the human race? Yeah.

So, patience and wisdom are two guard rails to our lives.

“In your patience possess ye your souls.”

Luke 21:19

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

James 1:5

They show up frequently in the Twelve Steps:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over a substance or behavior - that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

So, it would be great to embrace those helpful aids, right? Why don’t we give them some great big hugs?

Once again…

There is a way that seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.”

Proverbs 14:12

And maybe that little nugget of wrong perception spurs us to create our own set of Twelve “Fun” Steps instead. So, we reason…

  1. We admit we are powerful over any substance or behavior – we can, indeed, manage very well, thank you.
  2. We came to believe we are God (this is an effective one); we are the ultimate center of the universe.
  3. We made a decision to turn to our every whim and want as the final authority; we justify everything we do because, dagnabbit, we’re worth it!
  4. We don’t need to explain anything to anyone. If people don’t get us, well, that’s THEIR problem, not ours.
  5. We have nothing to be sorry about; we absolutely great. We owe no one ANY explanations or apologies.
  6. We want absolutely no one, including God, to intervene in our choices and lives; we don’t want to change anything!
  7. We get an attitude, we revel in our defensiveness. Yes, we know what’s best. Leave us alone.
  8. We never need to face who we’ve hurt and wronged; we never need to be accountable to anyone. They just need to get over it already.
  9. We owe no one any explanations. It’s our lives, after all. We’re too important to stop moving.
  10. We never apologize or admit we’re wrong. That’s a sign of weakness. We’re not weak; we’re invincible!
  11. We just need to seek out what gratifies us, never mind God, other people or “un-fun” things. Let’s have a good time instead.
  12. We want to be numb, pain free and happy at all costs. Our pleasure is the most important thing in life. If it doesn’t make us happy, we don’t do it.

Now, looking at these gems, raging, screaming narcissism, selfishness and arrogance just leap out, right? It looks ridiculous, like a toddler, throwing a temper tantrum on the floor.

But that’s exactly what our human nature, left unchecked, seems to be. Without patience and wisdom, we’re tangling with a whole variety of skunks- and we WILL pay the price for that entanglement.

Yes, it’d be much more fun to do whatever we feel like doing whenever and however we feel like doing it. It’d be great to have absolutely EVERYTHING we want when we want it. Patience and wisdom are not exactly “party words.” But, as we grapple with self-control, addiction, recovery, health and maturity, we need to keep one important thing in mind: God’s promise.

 “For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.”

Hebrews 10:36

It’s not just about avoiding the bad consequences; it’s about opening ourselves up to the GOOD ones as well. There is a payoff for practicing patience and wisdom. There are rewards.

Good health, an effective recovery program, a happy family, fulfilling relationships, peace, love and a real relationship with God are some of those rewards. However they don’t “just happen.” They take work; they take patience and wisdom.

Again, we need that refresher course as each of us encounters a myriad of skunk opportunities. Mr. Stinky’s in your field of vision. Patience and wisdom are too. What will you choose to do?

Copyright © 2018 by Sheryle Cruse

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