Contents Under Pressure
There’s a church sign that reads: “Some people are kind, polite, and sweet-spirited until you try to sit in their pews.” My wife and I have—once—been asked to move in a church we were visiting. Actually, there was a reason for it. The woman had a hearing problem, and that particular pew was right in front of the speaker. It was the only place in the sanctuary where she could hear what was going on in the service. We later joined the church and became good friends with the couple who had asked us to move.
Still, it’s a disconcerting experience. Perhaps the answer is to arrive just before the service begins and not sit down until the opening hymn has started. By that time most people are established in their customary seats and your chance of raising someone’s ire is minimal.
Of course, there is another solution: sit in the first couple of pews. Hardly anyone ever sits there. I guess they’re afraid of catching the preacher’s attention too much during the sermon.
It’s interesting what sets people off. I remember reading somewhere that it’s not the major problems that frustrate us but the little things: trying to find a parking space; not being able to get the necklace untangled; untying the knot in a child’s shoelace; not being able to answer the phone in time. Life’s little frustrations drive us over the edge.
Whatever it is that upsets us, we know that somewhere out there is a frustration with our name on it, just waiting to catch us unaware. At just the wrong time it attacks, getting under our skin and causing us to behave in a way that makes us unpleasant to be around. More than likely there are several small things that pile on top of each other, until the pressure becomes so great that we explode.
Geffory Crowell said: “I was looking at an aerosol can this week and saw the words ‘Contents under pressure.’ Some of us should have this pasted on our foreheads.” I agree with him—to a point. I believe most, if not all of us should wear such a sign. While there are some people who are walking pressure cookers, always within a few degrees of explosion, each of us has a triggering point—the place where, if pushed past it, we lose control.
Some psychologists say that we can cure at least a third of our problems merely by identifying them. Perhaps that’s true. If so, getting to know our boiling point and recognizing when we are getting close to it may help us avoid saying and doing things that we will later regret.
I think Paul understood the seriousness of losing control. That could be why he wrote the words of today’s scripture passage to the church at Ephesus. When we lose our tempers we not only hurt and upset those around us, we also grieve the Holy Spirit. If the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23), then allowing ourselves to exhibit bitterness, wrath, and anger is diametrically opposed to the work the Holy Spirit is trying to accomplish in us.
We know we cannot do this alone. We need the help of the Spirit, growing within us, changing us, making us more like Jesus Christ and less likely to let the pressure get to us. We can’t do much about the outside events that build pressure within the aerosol cans we live in, but we can learn to ask for help in letting the pressure dissipate. If anger and wrath grieve the Holy Spirit, then certainly asking for help in pressurizing times must be pleasing to God.
Then we can change the signs we wear from “Contents under pressure,” to “Sealed by the Spirit.”