Learning to be Flexible
A few weeks ago, we spent a long weekend tent camping with our five kids. If you’ve ever spent several nights sleeping in a tent, living out of your van, and sharing bathroom facilities with a multitude of other people, you know it’s not exactly a vacation – it’s an experience. My husband and I have been married 21 years, and we’ve done a lot of camping, road-tripping, and travelling with our brood, so I know how easily and how often things can go wrong. This trip was no exception – our air mattress had a slow leak, the tent proved to be slightly less than waterproof, and when we tried to check in at the sold-out campground, there was already an RV occupying our spot.
The problem with our campsite required a discussion with the ranger and also the campground manager. In the end, we agreed to double up on my sister’s and parents’ sites. No big deal. The manager, however, was shocked at our flexibility. We assured her that we weren’t mad and that we wouldn’t leave a negative review online. We were surprised at her level of anxiety over this – apparently a lot of customers really aren’t very flexible.
This whole episode made me think about how we, as Christians, respond to difficulties and inconveniences in everyday life. I think as flexibility becomes more rare, it’s even more important for Christians to model it. Here are few reasons to be flexible when life throws a curveball:
- Most of life’s disasters will be funny someday. Really. The things that seem like they’re ruining your day/life/vacation at the time are fodder for family laughter months and years after the fact. My family loves the story about one of our kids vomiting all over his sisters on our way home from a trip. Trust me, that was not funny at the time; there was lots of screaming and crying and erratic driving. With very few exceptions, most of the accidents and mishaps we’ve endured are funny now – even the ones that involve vomit.
- Our kids are watching us. Last year, my daughter’s kindergarten teacher taught the class a few critical traits during the first weeks of school. Flexibility was one of them. That teacher knows that life with lots of little people is much easier if they can be flexible about plans, schedules, snacks, and seating arrangements. Ultimately, though, our little ones learn flexibility from us. They watch us when our order gets messed up at the restaurant and when we have to wait at the doctor. They see our reactions when the toddler takes off his dirty diaper at naptime and when the babysitter cancels at the last minute. If we want to raise flexible kids, we have to be flexible ourselves.
- Flexibility is one way to show the world who Jesus is. I know it’s not a fruit of the spirit, but really flexibility encompasses so many of them – peace, patience, kindness, self-control, and love can all be demonstrated through a posture of understanding and flexibility. In a culture that gets upset about EVERYTHING, we can display the attitude of Christ with a word well-spoken and a gentle answer. We can resolve not to complain on social media, offer grace to the cashier at the grocery store, and greet daily interruptions from our kids with a smile instead of anger.
In the end, flexibility is putting others first and ourselves last, which goes against both our human nature and our self-centered culture. It takes practice and prayer, but learning to be flexible is worth it!
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Philippians 2:3