by evan junker
Sam Houston was known to be a drinker and womanizer among other things. He married multiple times, finally to a devout Baptist who seemingly changed his ways immediately. He was baptized by immersion in Little Rocky Creek, just outside of Independence, Texas. The minister, upon raising him from the creek, said to Houston, “Your sins are washed away!” A stone-faced Houston replied, “God help the poor fish below.”
It is easy to believe that a humorous quip such as this is not relevant to our modern lives. But I have found that Houston quote in the voices of those on phone calls and the faces of those on zoom videoconferences in recent weeks. It is a sad testament to the idea of a “zero-sum” existence. If we are given something, we must pay something. If someone else expects something, they must give us something. There is no such thing as a free lunch, it is only fair, you get what you deserve, and other such sayings underlie our human interactions.
With the onset of the pandemic, many of us experienced increased stress and lowered patience – with both ourselves and others. I found myself hypercritical of my own work as well as those of others. The smallest things aroused frustration and sadness, while joy and excitement remained elusive. A wild vulture living in my barn was hurt by a feral cat and I was forlorn for days! When a client deadline was missed you would have thought someone had stabbed me!
One night I lay awake stewing over how to confront a neighbor over a slight transgression of their property line. Around 2AM I found myself reflecting on 1 Peter 4:8-10:
“Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.”
Well, if that didn’t smack me upside the head like a brick! I was going about my frustrations the wrong way! I had focused so much on maintaining things the way they were before the pandemic, I was not willing to act as we are taught as Christians – through love, hospitality and grace. I kept holding myself and others to standards that were simply not feasible and responding in ways seeking to make things “fair” or “right” or “even” – to resolve the zero-sum game in my favor. But God’s grace is not a zero-sum thing – and his instructions to us call us to a higher standard.
I started doing my daily meditations again. I began looking for silver linings in things. I became more patient with myself – and others. When we reflect on the grace of God and all it empowers us to do, we can see what is possible to accept in a time of stress. I have had no shortage of things go awry. In fact, more stresses come at me every day! Yet each day I find myself more and more at peace – with myself, with others, and with God. Grace has given me a superpower over stress. I hope it may serve you as well.