Our Girl Nettie has had a bee in her bonnet for the past couple of weeks. Her hearing aids aren’t working right, and that has necessitated me speaking more loudly to her. And she never wants something when a given person is in the area — it seems like whenever something needs heard, the person she’s addressing is across the room, and she can’t hear them.
“–Can’t hear wha’cha sayin’,” she’ll say and lumber over to where I am, working her mouth in all directions as she tries to form the words. I repeat and repeat and repeat — and I have to ask her to repeat and repeat and repeat because, if the truth be told, she is very troubled by Seasonal Affective Disorder and when she get depressed, her speech becomes even more garbled. And her paranoia rears its ugly head with a vengeance. We are pretty much right there, right now.
This past week, maybe because I’ve done more “hollerin’–” (HAD TO) she got in her head that I was upset with her. Numerous times she has come to me with “Mare-Ann. I wanna’ ass you sumppin’-“
“What’s that Nettie-girl?”
“I wanna’ know. I juss get the feelin’ that you’re mad at me ’bout sumppin’.”
“No, Nettie, I’m not mad at you. Why do you think I’m mad at you?”
“I dunno’. I juss get the feelin’ that you’re upset ’bout sumppin’.”
I reassure her, make a joke about it, try to tell her that maybe it’s because I’ve been trying to talk louder, so she can understand, and she usually is able to laugh and go back to her business, but it seems like a very short time and I hear, “Mare-Ann. I wanna’ ass you sumppin’-” — and we are back to the same old, same old all over again.
The problem is, it doesn’t take too often of someone thinking you’re mad at them to feel just a little irritated.
And couple that with a few other irritations, I’ve been trying hard to hang on to my patience.
This morning Josh preached about our expectations and how our expectations affect how we look at other Christians, and how our expectations are what motivate us, not only in ordinary living, but in the spiritual realm, as well.
I had a child on my lap most of the sermon, preventing me from taking notes, but it sure didn’t prevent me from listening and pondering. And (as usual) I’ve gotten more than enough to think about. The thing is, Nettie has been really needy this afternoon. I think she got me off my chair at least three times to “help” her solve problems that could have waited — or to ask me questions about when she should do something. (It doesn’t matter how often I tell her that it doesn’t matter when she “gets the paper” or “feeds the birds” or “gives the birds fresh water” or “takes her shower” she still wants me to set a time for her to do those things.)
I’ve been guilty of saying things like, “I think you should probably give the birds fresh water around three o’clock. That way it would be done.” Or, “Probably 7:30 would be a great time for you to take your shower. That way you can get your hair dried before you go to bed.” Or, “Why don’t you feed the birds around four thirty tonight. That will be before supper, before it gets dark, before things are too finished for the evening.” I say those things when it doesn’t make a hill of beans difference when she does any of those things. And I don’t know why it irritates me that she can’t just follow, “Whenever you want to do it, Nettie. If you feel like doing it now, that’s fine. If you want to wait until later, that’s fine.” Even when I go into long explanations like, “You know, Nettie, why don’t you break up your afternoon a little. When you get tired of sitting on your chair, watching television, just go and feed the birds. It really doesn’t matter at all. You are a big girl. You can do what you want. And if you don’t want to, that’s fine, too.”
That really throws her off. I guess she sits in there and nearly drives herself to distraction, trying to figure out what she really should do. Whether I really want her to and just won’t say it, or if I really think she shouldn’t, but don’t want to say so, or maybe she thinks I think she doesn’t want to, but she really does, or maybe she thinks I just say what I say because I think she wants to and I’m just making it hard for her.
Most of the time, I can just let it go and not worry about it. Most of the time, I realize that she does the best she can with what she has, and even though it sometimes seems to me that she is looking extra hard to find somewhere to remind me of where I am coming up short, yet she is probably just being Our Girl Nettie. And most of the time, Nettie is delightful. She truly is my friend, in spite of the circumstances that brought her to our house. I love her dearly, and believe that God has a plan here for her, yes, but also for us. I learned a long time ago that sometimes the hardest people that God brings into our lives haven’t been put here for us to “help” them, but rather it is GOD doing a work in our hearts to bring about His Image in us. And if we “help” them? Well, that’s only by the Grace of God.
Tonight I realize that I have the hardest time dealing with the “inconveniences” that come into my life when my expectations turn out to be unrealistic. I think Josh pretty much made the point that some expectations are fair, normal and needed. I couldn’t agree more. But sometimes we expect things of people that they just cannot give, and holding them to our expectations only results in frustration on both sides. So how do we set realistic expectations that result in mutuality in relationships, satisfaction in the exchanges we have with others, and keep us from looking down on people when we realize they aren’t capable of meeting the expectations we have?
I’ve said it before, so you don’t have to keep on reading if you don’t want to. The truth is, we are all handicapped before the Father. When He looks at us poor mortals, there is certainly a lot less discrepancy in ability between me and Nettie than there is between me and Him. How can I expect Him to look upon the many things I do that “inconvenience” Him with any mercy at all, if I can’t do that for Our Girl Nettie?
And then I read over what I’ve written here and realize how very trivial all the offenses are and how out of proportion my reaction!
And so I raise again the white flag of Surrender. There is no other way.