I like to have a warm drink in the morning, it sort of sets my day right. It’s probably because I used to be an obsessive coffee drinker but ever since I began taking ADD medication, caffeine and I don’t get along at all. I’ve switched to decaf mostly, or warm apple cider or teas. Sunday mornings, I usually take my warm drink with me to Sunday school in a travel mug. This passed Sunday, it was warm decaf tea.
We go to a relatively large church, not a huge “mega-church” but a church that fills 4 services each weekend without problem. I’d say our sanctuary can easily hold about 350 people comfortably at one time. We attend the 11:00 service which is a “blended” service, meaning it is a good mix of traditional and contemporary styles blended together. It’s casual and I enjoy it, even though I am a very contemporary worship kinda girl.
By the time 11:00 worship began this passed Sunday, I had not finished my tea. It’s a casual environment so I took my travel mug into worship with me instead of taking it out to the car. I wasn’t interested in drinking the rest, I was just being lazy – plus it was cold outside. We sat in one of the back sections. That is where we are most comfortable although unlike a typical Lutheran we move around to difference spots all the time (that’s a joke). Variety is good.
When we sat down I purposely placed my half empty travel mug on the floor to my left away from where my son was sitting on my right. I could just see him knocking it over and it making a loud noise. I wanted to avoid that. I placed it by the leg of the pew in front of us, nestling it under far enough so it would be difficult to bump over.
After the Pastor opened up worship, he invited us to greet those around us…a pass the peace and meet your neighbor kind of thing. I went down the aisle to my right to say hellos to a few people while my husband, who was on my left, greeted some people in front of us who had turned around.
When I turned back to my spot I saw something horrible… and it happened in slow motion. My dear husband, who I love and adore, stepped forward slightly and kicked my travel mug. The mug flopped over sideways crashing to the floor… the crash of it falling over was not audible since people were greeting one another… but what I saw next mortified me.
The travel mug hit the floor so hard that the lid popped off. The half empty mug became completely empty in a matter of seconds. My heart skipped a beat as one of my worst nightmares became a reality.
It’s just a spill, no big deal, right? Just wipe it up and move on with life… hmmmm… not so easy. You can only wipe up the spill if it stays in one spot, and since our church has stadium style seating… translation: slanted floor… the spill fell victim to the laws of gravity and very quickly (although I saw it in slow motion) began to flow forward. Forward from the back of the church where we sat… all the way to the front. One by one, pew by pew, the people began to turn back and look to see where this mysterious liquid was coming from. One lady’s purse got dowsed… and all I could do it stand there mortified with my hand over my mouth. I felt the weight of eyes on me… I can’t remember being this embarrassed in forever. My husband ran to get some paper towels, as did I. We wiped up what we could then I went down the aisle on the side during the next hymn and offered paper towels to everyone who had endured the tea river.
Back at my seat I knew I had done all I could do. A mistake had been made and we did what we could to resolve it but my heart and mind were spinning in anxiety. The sound of my heart beating in my chest was so loud that I couldn’t hear a word that was being said in the service. Pastor had just done confession and absolution and we were about the sing the next song.
I was absorbed in my own emotions in those moments. My light-hearted mood had quickly turned to… heavy and unhappy. Thoughts swarmed at me… “Should I leave? Should I run? Should I never show my face again in the place? Is this what I’m going to be remembered for, the tea spiller? I imagined the pastor wagging his finger at me saying, “that’s why you shouldn’t have drinks in the sanctuary.” Oh and that lady’s purse, was it leather? Should I offer to replace it? Should I mop the floor after church? Will the Pastor slip and fall in front of everyone because of me?”
I looked up as first lesson was being read. It was then that I realized I had not heard a word that had been said in church so far. I became completely aware I was focusing on the wrong thing in that moment. I knew I could make a decision… to let the slow motion memory of the “great spill of 2011” go and focus on what God had to give me –OR- I could choose to stay in my current state of mind of worry and negativity and give myself over to Satan for a bit longer. I’d like to tell you I chose wisely, but I didn’t. I chose to give some more energy to Satan… and I sat there unable to listen, focus or think of anything other than “the Spill.” I continued torturing myself for another 15 minutes.
The sermon was now over and the choice was offered to me again… let it go so I can focus on God –OR- let Satan continue his party dance on my self-esteem. I am glad to say that I was able, with God’s help, to get myself back on track at that point. I asked God to remove the things blocking me from Him and allow me to move on productively. God is so good, He came through and the devil was squashed yet again. I was able to participate with all my heart in the last 15 minutes of the service, which I was glad for. I still have our final song in my head… and it was a good one.
After service, I went to the church kitchen and got some rags to clean up my mess. When I returned to the sanctuary I realized, there really wasn’t that much to clean up. The spill had looked far worse to me than it really was. In my mind I saw a giant river… but in reality it was a little trickle. And that is how Satan gets me. He makes me perceive reality much differently than it really is so he can help my mind over-react and make bad choices. Oh how I wish I could get rid of that piece of my human nature that likes to torture itself.
Today, I can choose to sit back and beat myself up for falling victim to the father of lies because I didn’t hear much of what was said at service; I can choose to allow myself to feel guilty for spending 35 minutes of my Sunday with Satan or I can choose to simply accept what happened and thank God for His grace. I may not have heard the Pastor’s message but God certainly taught me a lesson. There was a time in my life when I wouldn’t have allowed God to “snap” me away from Satan’s lies that quickly. Five years ago, I may have run away that very moment and never returned to the church again. Three years ago I may have just stayed away a few weeks. Two years ago, I may have just let the junk rule and ruin my thoughts for an entire week. Instead of feeling badly, I chose to see God’s victory over the devil in the fact that Satan only got 35 minutes from me this time. And because of those 35 minutes, I praise God all the more. In a sense, Satan’s temporary “hold” only brought me closer to understanding God’s never-ending love for me. Next time, and there will be a next time no doubt, I’m hoping to shorten it to 15 minutes.
I am getting closer and closer every day to understanding more of how God’s love works. I didn't get it before and now I am. I am getting closer to understanding that I’m never going to get it right, and that is okay only because of Jesus. The words actually make sense. I’m really starting to grasp that His grace is sufficient for all my sin. Grace ... is something I am embracing, finally. So what if Satan had me for 35 minutes this Sunday… in the end the joke is really on him. After all, having me in his hands was merely a perception on his part because reality is clear… I am God’s and God’s alone… for eternity. John 10:27-28 “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.”