A Long Cold Wait
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Growing up, my family spent a lot of Christmases in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It’s an amazing time to be there if you like the snow and all the outdoor activities that come along with several feet of it. My family and I have made a lot of great memories over the years. One of the only downsides of being in the north woods in the winter is that the days are really short. The sun sets early, and it is pitch black by 4 pm every day.
One particular Christmas, my brother, our buddy Tom, and I found ourselves with a serious case of cabin fever. We did what any three guys aged 18, 17, and 16 do when they catch cabin fever. We went for a drive. Our cabin was in the middle of nowhere, so a drive anywhere was going to take a minimum of 45 minutes. We decided to head to St. Ignace and get something to eat at the casino buffet. We had found our way there the previous summer, but that’s a story for another time. We jumped in the car, and 45 minutes later, as we pulled into the parking lot of the restaurant, we discovered they had closed for the season. More than a little disappointed, we decided to make our way “downtown” to the only other restaurant that was open, Pizza Hut. Upon walking in, we were glad to find they were open. We were not so glad to find out they didn’t believe in turning on the heat. We quickly realized that we needed to keep on all of our winter gear.
Most people weren’t desperate enough to come into Pizza Hut that day; there was only one other couple there, plus a group of intimidating guys in a corner booth. After a good 20 minutes of shivering in our booth, the waitress took our order. We got our pitcher of disappointingly flat and warm Pepsi soon after. As we sat in our coats, hats, and gloves and sipped our flat soda, we were bummed. Our pizza finally came, and it was barely warm. On top of that, my brother had been nursing a sinus infection. Here we were, freezing in a dirty Pizza Hut, trying to kill our boredom with cold pizza and flat soda. It wasn’t working.
That’s when it happened. I don’t remember exactly how it happened. One of us said something, and that’s all it took. We started to laugh. Everything was funny. The flat soda, the cold restaurant, trying to eat pizza with gloves, everything. What else could we do but laugh? But our laughter was brought to an abrupt stop. The group from the corner was suddenly standing at the end of our table. This wasn’t just some random group of guys.
The first one that spoke had a cut-off football jersey, and the other two had letter jackets on. They were all at least a head taller and apparently had nothing to do all winter but work out. They were intimidating, to say the least. As they towered over our table, our laughter turned to awkward stares at each other, and then the first guy spoke, “You guys have a problem?!?!” More awkward stares, none of us daring to make eye contact. “I said, do you have a problem?!?!” (Well, actually, that’s not all he said. He used some other choice words as well.) We were all thoroughly confused. We had never spoken to these guys or even mentioned them or the other couple. What was going on? The tension was thick, and all I heard was my brother reply, “n-n-no.” One of the “tough guys” made some comment about fixing our problem, which I don’t think was actually meant to be helpful. They then turned towards the door and said, “We will be waiting for you outside!”
Tom, my brother, and I just stared at the table, afraid to move or think. And just as they opened the door, Tom blurted out, “It’s going to be a long, cold wait for both of us.”
The door closed, and the tension erupted from within us into waves of laughter. The other couple and the waitress assured us that we hadn’t done anything to instigate the interaction, and we all just shook our heads in bewilderment. A few hours later, we walked out of Pizza Hut and were met only by the cold. Over the years, we have retold this story countless times, and it still makes me laugh and shake my head in confusion.
Life is disappointing. If you haven’t figured this out yet, get ready because it’s just a matter of time.
How do we respond to those disappointments? Do we get bitter and resentful? Even angry or hateful? Even worse: do we blame others and challenge them to fight? Well, maybe not literally…but do we push others with our words? When plans get canceled, or we find ourselves with cold pizza, what is our response?
How we respond to life’s disappointments is a great indication of the condition of our hearts. Life will bring struggles. They will look different for each of us, but they will be difficult. A lot more difficult than some flat soda and cold pizza. Or even some punks threatening to meet you outside. As seasons come and go, there will be mountaintops and seemingly endless valleys. In all these difficulties, we need to put our trust and hope in God.
Preparing for these disappointments, especially as leaders, is pivotal. We don’t want to react in moments of stress. We want to be spiritually prepared. Preparing spiritually looks like consistent time in Scripture, personal times of worship, regular prayer and repentance, and time with the body of Christ. It means that your life is in perpetual surrender to the Lord and what He is doing in your spirit. This isn’t a checklist of do’s and don’ts. This is a state of being. As leaders of people and followers of Jesus, we need to be aware of the state of our spirit at all times. So we are prepared for the next valley.
Share your thoughts with others in our YM360 community:
- When you encounter moments of pressure and stress, do you find yourself merely reacting to the moment, or are you spiritually prepared to handle it well? What is hindering or helping you?
- How can you best minister to your students so that they respond well to life’s disappointments too?
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