I have a pet peeve. I’m not suggesting I’m limited to only one – in fact I have a long list just like you do. (With meditation and prayer I’ve managed to whittle my peeves down to the low thousands.) It’s just that this particular pet peeve is fresh on my mind.
I bought some flowers for Cheryl the other day (it was her birthday). A lovely young woman wrapped them nicely in paper and when she passed them to me I gave her a sincere “Thank you”. Her response to my excellent expression of gratitude was, “No problem”.
No problem? Really? That’s it?
It was so reassuring to hear I wasn’t problem for her.
No problem is like saying, ‘Well, it’s my job’ or ‘You didn’t put me out too much’ or ‘I helped you because they make me’.
A quick glance at Google assures me that I’m not alone in this.
All we want is proactive appreciation like a hearty, “You’re welcome” or a warm “The pleasure is mine”. They don’t have to be sincere, I simply ask that the person act like they appreciated our interaction; that I’m not a problem to be tolerated.
It could be said that being a problem is one of our lifelong realities.
As a baby we keep our parents up at night and sense their exhaustion. They have trouble finding a babysitter when we’re four and the one who they get isn’t interested.
In school we have trouble reading, don’t get math, have a short attention span, act up, never finish our homework, and we feel the teacher’s frustration, smirks from peers, pressure from parents.
As a teenager the not-good-enoughs are front and centre, then as adults competition and performance expectations heat up even more.
And if you were raised in the church there were all kinds of explicit or inferred disapprovals and inadequacies for those of us with an independent streak or not yet ready to understand faith for ourselves.
It’s along about this time that we begin to learn that most relationships are conditional.
When we purchase something we are just a source of income; when we make an insurance claim we’re a suspect; when we do our job we are a component of our employer’s bottom line; to the government who is charged with protecting us we are a number … a SIN number no less.
When we are sick we are a drag on the medical system; when we are sad people avoid us; when we are old we are an inconvenience.
In fact, we often find ourselves in the uncomfortable role of a problem to be solved.
But if we consider God, if we look at Jesus, our existence begins to feel drastically different. Eternal love is explicitly stated but there is an additional undercurrent of warmth and affection that ebbs quietly through the words of scripture.
Adam and Eve were a problem because they introduced disobedience into the world. Job was a problem because he asked the hardest questions. Jonah was an insolent, problem preacher, and some of those Minor Prophets seemed pretty minor.
Leah and Rachael were problems because their husband loved one more than the other (really awkward). Rahab was a real problem because she was a prostitute. Dorcas was just a nobody who made clothing to pay the bills. Esther, Ruth, Naomi, Anna were not notable in any particular way.
But none of them were inconvenient in the eyes of the One who knew them. In fact, they were solutions to deeper problems.
Why was Jacob so annoying? How was Peter able to look into Jesus’ eyes after betraying him? Thomas was a headache at precisely the wrong time. How did Paul deal with his guilt for killing Christians? Revelation is a problem John, why do you insist on writing that way? Problems, every one, who nevertheless formed the roots of faith.
Jesus notices a short little man who was despised in his community but he invites himself into the man’s home for dinner. Zacchaeus was a problem to everyone else except Jesus.
Even Judas, who betrayed Jesus, was not a problem. Think about that.
I can’t for the life of me find the source, but I recently read these simple but extraordinary words:
“You’re a solution, not a problem.”
That is very much a biblical theme. God knit you together, knows you, approves of you, likes you, gifted you uniquely.
Yes, I see all those waving hands and worried grimaces from you religious types out there. Relax, I know we are broken, sinful, imperfect, and in need of help.
But God’s high opinion of us is not diminished; he knows who we are and his desperate hope is that we move past our problematic beliefs in order to become who we were meant to be.
Somehow, some way, in spite of any circumstances, please remember that you are not a problem. In fact, quite the opposite is true.
You are a solution.