I have to make a confession. I read “Dear Abby” almost every day in the newspaper. I started when my daughter was in Junior High and she was reading it, so I decided I had better know what was in the letters. It’s now a habit and I find it amusing sometimes, confusing sometimes, and downright aggravating other times! Often, I’m surprised by what angers people.
In one letter I learned there are people who think other people are wrong – like they were breaking some law of etiquette – because they put food on their plates at a meal and eat all of one thing, then they move on to the next thing and eat all of that before they taste anything else. They finish eating by consuming one food at a time until their plate is empty.
People write to “Dear Abby” wanting to know if these people are, indeed, breaking etiquette. It angers them to see this behavior at a table where they are also eating. It reminded me of a friend of mine who told me she had been in an argument with her husband because he was driving them to the mall and she thought he took the wrong route. They got to the mall but she didn’t like the route he took them. She stood her ground that he was wrong and they had an all-out fight about it!
I find myself in the same sort of disbelief when people get mad about where they park their car – like having to walk 50 feet to their door is some sort of abuse from a neighbor.
In the past, I have helped an elderly woman a time or two and as we would talk, if something was said that was hard to take or about a difficult situation she would just say, “But God.” It was as if she wanted to remind me that God is always there with the “but I have it under control” or the “but I know how you feel” or the “but I will take care of you.”
As I was reading these letters to “Dear Abby” today I was thinking, “But God” doesn’t care about the order we eat our food. “But God” does care about how we treat others. If we are getting angered by inconsequential issues like the order someone eats their food, the route they take to the mall, and where people park their cars what on earth are we saying about our priorities? Do people forget that God hears all of our conversations and knows our every thought?
I don’t remember how “Abby” answered this concern over eating etiquette, “but God” must be grieved that we are not more kind and humble with others. Do these things matter in light of eternity? Should we be getting angry over such trivial things? In his letter to the Romans, Paul said to them, “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions,” Romans 14:1.
What order we eat our food, the route we take to get some place, and where to park the car are opinions. There are no Biblical or civil laws that set these things in stone. We need to ease up so we can get to more important talk. We may be sitting in anger and judgment of another “but God” is waiting for us to point others to Him as we always consider them more important than ourselves.
I probably need to stop reading “Dear Abby” and get on with something more meaningful. My adult daughter, now a wife and mother, doesn’t even get a newspaper. My excuses to read “idle chatter” are over.
Beth Bingaman is a speaker, Bible teacher, and writer living in Reading, Pa. She is the mother of two adults and grandmother of two precious grandchildren. It is her passion to teach the whole counsel of God with clarity, energy and wit. She teaches and speaks for retreats and women’s ministry events with the goal of challenging women to think and live biblically. You can read her devotional blog or contact her to teach for your women’s ministry event at www.bethbingaman.com or follow her on Facebook or @BethBingaman on twitter.
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.
Genesis 50:20 (emphasis mine)