Grumbler’s Anonymous Anyone?

Do you have anyone in your life
that’s a handful?
Someone who provokes
you to complaining
and grumbling?

Yeah, me, too.

One of my fathers-in-law was
a Golden Gloves boxing champion
for the Army during WWII.

After leaving the Army,
he joined the police force in
Milwaukee, WI. 

 

He rode motorcycles year-round
in the freezing Milwaukee, WI winters.
“Heck, yes, (except he didn’t say heck) it was cold.
We’d wrap our legs with newspaper
as insulation under our uniforms.

He was a strong man
with strong opinions
and not much of a filter
if you know what I mean.

At least, his sweet wife buffered
his coarse talk
and old-fashioned opinions
with graceful scoldings and smiles.

Then . . . his wife died. 

Suddenly,
I became the primary caregiver
for that cantankerous man! 

He moved into our home and
went everywhere the kids and I went—
grocery stores,
swimming pools,
restaurants.
What he couldn’t flirt with, he fought with.
He made unfriendly gestures at drivers using their cell phones.
He told off-color stories at the dinner table.
He woke kids from naps they didn’t want to take
and gave them treats they weren’t supposed to have.
He’d pat me on the backside and say,
“Hey Baby, how you doin’ today?”

I wondered how long it would be
before my head exploded. 

I would have done just about anything to get rid of him.

But then, I found this Bible verse in Proverbs 25:
If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat;
if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.
In doing this,
you will heap burning coals on his head,
and the LORD will reward you.

RIGHT ON!

Burning coals for him and a reward for me!
What’s not to like?
I kept taking care of him,
but I didn’t see any burning-coal consequences for him,
and I sensed no reward for me. 

Warning Note:
If you are a grumbler like I was,
stay out of the Bible!

After complaining to God about him for the millionth time,
I found another Scripture passage, Matthew 25:
Jesus is talking to a crowd, and he says,
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat,
I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,
I was a stranger and you invited me in,
I needed clothes and you clothed me,
I was sick and you looked after me.” 

When the crowd asks him when they had done all that,
Jesus answers,
“Truly I tell you,
whatever you did for one of the least of these
brothers and sisters of mine,
you did for me.” 

Oh no!

Taking care of someone for a reward
is much different than caring for people
the way Jesus would. 

The burning coals were falling
on my head!

I started treating my father-in-law
as if Jesus was following me around taking notes.

I took care of him cheerfully.
I spoke to him kindly.
I served him graciously.
I prayed for him. 

At the end his life,
I can tell you he had not changed a lick.

But I had.

I had learned
patience,
hospitality,
mercy,
kindness.

I had learned to love him as Jesus loved him.

As is.

Just like Jesus loves me.

So, about that challenging person
in your life …
the burning coals
aren’t falling on your head,
are they?