A few weeks ago I left my office on a Tuesday afternoon convinced that the entire Southeast was blowing this winter storm thing way out of proportion.
Even though the threat of actual winter weather was so real that school had been canceled, I expected to discover that the South had, one again, over-reacted to the threat of a freeze.
At first I thought I was right. I admit, I got up a few times that night hoping to see the forecasted snow, but it seemed to be a pretty uneventful, rainy night. Like every other morning, I poured my travel mug of coffee and headed to the car.
Then -- and only then -- did I realize that something completely unusual had happened. My car was covered -- I mean completely covered -- in ice. It might as well have been Saran Wrapped. I couldn't even get a grip on the handle to attempt to open the door, not that the door could have opened if I had. Plus, I was standing on ice that I was terrified to keep walking on. Driving was out of the question.
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For a whole day the ice left me -- and most Southerners -- completely incapacitated. A whole 24 hours later, I was finally able to pry my back (and least frozen) door open, climb over my emergency break and plop into the driver's seat to start the defroster. I still can't believe how debilitating a little frozen water was to my week.
If you're tuning in to the Winter Olympics, you're witnessing a completely different story. While ice kept me home, whimpering on my couch and wrapped up in my Snuggie, ice is necessary for athletes to demonstrate their skills.
When I turn on figure skating, I'm going to be thinking of two things: their outrageous dry-cleaning bills AND how hard it was for me to just walk over the ice patches that surrounded my car. Rather than seeing ice as paralyzing, they're using it to show off their potential.
The same can be true for our spiritual life. While sharing some challenges I had with a pastor, he suggested I take a more "Jason Bourne" approach to the people and situations I was finding difficult to deal with. If you remember from the "Bourne Identity" movies, Jason Bourne could use anything as a weapon. Curtain rods, ball point pens, door knobs -- anything in the junk drawer was an instant option in self-defense.
Now, this pastor wasn't suggesting that I attack people or situations with my pen. However, instead of seeing obstacles, he suggested I recognize it as a potential for growth.
For example, rather than being infuriated by the 16 items someone is checking out in the 10 items-or-fewer express lane, take the extra time to offer a prayer of gratitude for food in a world where some don't have enough to eat. When the minivan full of lost tourists from Ohio is crawling in front of you and holding up traffic, use the lull to enjoy the beauty of creation instead of leaning on your horn. When a co-worker asks you to explain the same process for the 10th time that day, take the opportunity to grow in patience.
This approach to inconveniences doesn't come naturally to me. Like an athlete who practices the same move over and over again, I find I have to refocus every morning (and some days, every hour) and ask God for help. Yet just as no athlete would make it to the Winter Olympics if they hid under their Snuggie in freezing weather, we won't grow spiritually if we shy away from the everyday opportunities we have to grow in patience and charity.
Follow columnist Alison Griswold at twitter.com/alisongriz. Read her blog at www.teamcatholic.blogspot.com.