When Others Get on Your Nerves

An annoying distraction in church leads to some insight–and wisdom.

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Posted in , Jul 18, 2017

What to do when you're annoyed.

The sermon started, and I found it hard to concentrate. A weird sound made it harder. Phhhhtp! Phhhhtp! I looked to my left and saw a woman thumbing the edge of the hymnal. She lifted the pages with her thumb and let them fall against it, over and over again. It started to get on my nerves. Didn’t she realize that others could hear the noise?

I glared in her direction, but it she was oblivious. With an audible sigh I re-directed my attention to the preacher. Sort of.

A moment later (phhhtp!) I had to say a quick prayer for patience. I considered asking the woman nicely to stop. But my prayer abruptly turned my thoughts in another direction, and I found myself reflecting that the reason people do things like mindlessly run their fingers over the pages of a book is that they are anxious and the sensation is soothing.

I said another prayer, this time for wisdom. When it came to specks vs planks in eyes (Matthew 7:3), it was clear my distractability was far more of a problem than the noise of my neighbor in the pew. The sound would hardly be audible if my heart was truly attuned to the preaching.

Sigh. If I allowed myself to be charitable instead of annoyed, I understood that the ever-flipping pages were the sound of someone coping with her anxiety so that she could listen to the sermon. Could I perhaps be gracious enough to allow her to pay attention?

I decided I could. Or at least I could try. And if I couldn’t pay attention myself, I could certainly pray during the sermon for this woman, so that whatever comfort she needed would be given to her.

Tags: Prayer,Church
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