I have a tendency to overthink things. Often this comes in handy, like when I bring a book to the doctor's office. Other times, it doesn't, like when my over-analysis of what to make for dinner ends up putting hot dogs and sweet potatoes on our plates to avoid imminent starvation. But mostly my overthinking results in a mixed blessing.
When AWANA Clubs registration came up last August, I signed a volunteer form to state that I would serve in my 5-year old's Sparkies class every Wednesday night until May 2013. I knew I had to tie my future-self up in service if I was going to stay committed to returning week after week. Once I say I'll volunteer, it becomes a job in my mind, and I'll make sure that I show up no matter what.
Some Wednesday nights, I want to strangle my past-self for making that decision. Without that commitment, we would have skipped so many nights. But my past-self is stuck back in August, smiling at me, her future-self, with that smug little grin and saying, "You'll thank me later." (Yes, I'm over-imaginative too.)
Not surprisingly, the Enemy delights in tainting my service in AWANA with various abominable adventures. Please understand, this has nothing to do with AWANA itself. The program is great; the leaders are wonderful. But there's just something about a group of competitive 5- to 7-year olds, all a bit overtired and hungry, that makes it easy for the Enemy to carve at one's patience. Or gouge, as the case may be.
The other night, our second team leader was absent, and I found myself leading the group solo. As I ground my teeth and put the same children back in time-out, I tried to remember to turn around and cheerfully smile for the kids racing around with beanbags clutched in their fists. If the fruit of the Spirit is patience (Galatians 5:22), then mine was rotting and stinking something fierce by the time the last parent took their kid from the room at 8:00 p.m.
Despite my struggling with pitiable patience, Jewel and Superboy are thrilled about going to AWANA this year. They are memorizing verses, talking about God, making friends, and being reminded that God's word is truth. Every frustration and annoyance disappears in a wisp when I hear my son say, "Jesus is the way and the truth and the life!"
Yes, some Wednesday nights, I want to instead thank my smug little past-self. She knew what she was doing in lining me up for a commitment such as this. Indeed, I am aware of God’s perfect will and timing throughout every swallowed angry word or deep breath and prayer made in the face of disobedient children and their "wicked schemes" (Psalm 37:7).
James 1 says to count our trials as joy because these tests will make us stronger in the end (v. 2-4). Truly, if one woman can handle the onslaught of a gaggle of Sparkies in AWANA, she can handle anything. Maybe my patience will even benefit Jewel and Superboy. The Holy Spirit meets them at AWANA week after week, helping them really consider the things the Bible says. It's not just a book anymore; it's real history, real words—words that God uses to teach us important things.
Like 1 Peter 1:6-7, which says, "In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ."
Or Colossians 1:11-12: "May you be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light."