Taking a Step Back

In the fall my wife began teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) classes four times a week as a part-time faculty member for College of Dupage in West Chicago. She spends roughly three hours a day in the classroom teaching immigrants grammar, vocabulary, and syntax. She loves it! She comes home with some amazing stories of students who finally understood something about the English language as well as some humorous misspeaks. It has added a great deal of spice to our dinner conversations. Involved in the classroom teaching is the significant time spent preparing lessons, making visuals, grading papers, and completing academic forms for the college. As a result, she has numerous folders dedicated to various topics. Over the past couple of months, it became apparent that she needed a desk. We use to have one in the basement. However, it experienced water damage so we got rid of it. We never replaced it because we typically use our dining room table. This is great for temporary tasks such as finances. However, it has become less than ideal for Penny’s work. She needed a workspace.

We looked online for some desks. She wanted something simple and small that would fit into our basement guestroom. However, we wanted it to fit with the existing furniture in that room and not appear clunky as if we are combining an office with a bedroom. As I looked online I saw the perfect desk. It was simple and functional. Yet, the price was very expensive. Now, I am never one to shy away from a project. So, I turned to my wife and said “I think I can build it.” “Are you sure?” “Absolutely. It should be a piece of cake.” We set a couple of evenings aside. We purchased some nice pine wood. Then, I began to work on it. Everything went smoothly. I cut the wood, sanded it, and put the pieces together. The trickiest part was connecting the top section. I used dowel rods so as to not use screws. I was so pleased that everything went smoothly (not typical for many of my projects). Believing it was a seamless project, we began to install it into the wall. You guessed it. I ran into problems. I couldn’t get the bolts to mount to the studs. Then, one of the screws got stripped so I had to remove it. The “fun project” became frustrating. I was concerned I would ruin the desk. I got quiet and irritated. I finally propped up the desk and stepped away, primarily because I had a meeting to go to. On the way to the church I sighed. An hour and half later I arrived home yet now I had a clear head, less frustration, and ready to give it another shot. This time I tried a different approach. Voila. It worked. The desk was mounted in less than 5 minutes. Easy and simple. I wondered how long it would have taken if I would have kept pressing on the task. Or, worse yet, what damage I would have done. I thought to myself, “I should have tried this approach two hours ago.” Then I realized, it required stepping away from it to get a better perspective.

I find this to be a valuable lesson for life. When I get frustrated or angry over something I oftentimes want to keep pressing through it. I try to mentally process it. I think through the various scenarios. I share with my wife the irritation I am having over some problem (sometimes it is good to vent). Other times, I simply grow quiet. In some cases, I get real edgy to the point I carry a chip around with me throughout the day. At times, I tried exercising in the hopes that I could shake it. Almost always these methods don’t work. Yet, when I take time to step away from it, pray about it, and lay the situation before God, it goes away. Amazing. Voila. Stepping away from it worked. Pressing through it did not.

Philippians 4:6-7 states, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Sadly, more often than not, I try to press through the problem. I am not sure if it is my reliance on self or simply letting the emotions get the better of me. In some cases, I probably just want to stay annoyed. Either way plowing through the frustration doesn’t work. Stepping back from it and praying to God does. It gives me a new perspective. It allows God’s grace to absorb my emotions. And, it most certainly gives me joy as I let go of the irritation by resting in God’s peace.

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