I Got 99 Problems

Today I need a little help — just a quick discerning eye and a shoulder share to help me sort out a few things. So, sidle up and help me figure out how many of these problems are actually mine.  If you’re anything like me, and I suspect you are, people come to you with things they want you to fix.

Disclaimer — I do not fix things.  I have never been handy. I’m a good listener, but I usually just want the abridged version of what’s on your mind — the Tweetable, 140-character version — not the novella.

I got 99 problems, and I need help sorting them into three groups: mine, yours, and those perceived to be mine (but they’re really yours). Allow me to set the scene of a 30-minute snapshot of my day.

This morning I arrived at work, parked my car, and entered through a side door. I typically encounter two – three people immediately. I always say, “Gooood morning (in my sing song voice)! How’s everybody?” Because I was raised right, I wait for a response. If this were a video recording, I’d pause here for reflection.

What I realize now as I reflect is that I’m a walking invitation to take on other people’s problems. Seriously, I am. By caring or showing all the signs of someone who cares, I am inadvertently emitting a signal that attracts primates –specifically monkeys. Stay with me; I’ll explain.

Not my circus, not my monkeys.

We all have monkeys on our backs — a burdensome problem, situation, or responsibility– and it seems that I am a one woman show who travels with a troupe of monkeys. As these three shift monkeys from their backs and hurl them at me, I catch one in mid-shift, and even dive for the other two so they don’t hit the ground.  Those monkeys are now mine, and I haven’t even made it to my office yet. I walked in with zero problems, and now I have three.

As I walk across the cafeteria to get to the main office, I see a spill in the foyer, a door ajar, and a small pile of trash–six problems in all, and I still haven’t opened the main door. I enter the office, and everything looks swell. My co-workers are chatting,  and they greet me as well, but I walk past them quickly to open my door and discover another small mess on the floor. My back starts to ache though these monkeys are small.  If I don’t shift quickly, then one of them might fall.

I hang up my coat and put away my purse, log into my e-mail and things suddenly get worse. Seventy-four new messages since the last time I checked. Ten are marked urgent; now my morning is wrecked.

I swivel in my chair to survey my desk. Three distinct piles have created a mess. I step out for a minute to sign in and get tea, but my steps aren’t too steady; I now have 84 monkeys.

En route to the break room, I meet a few friends. Only one is standing upright, so I turn around to flee. “Not so fast, Michelle. You just got here!” said one friend. She’s nearly doubled over from the monkeys she’s taken in. She becomes more erect, the longer she speaks, and what had happened to her is now happening to me. The weight is unbearable, so I look for a seat. I suddenly remembered all I wanted was tea. Now 94 problems are traveling with glee. My temper and fears are getting the best of me. Add those two to the others, and I’m now at 96. It’s only 6:30, and I’m already in a fix. I crawl back to my office with my tea in tow, three ladies are at my door, and I have no place to go. Welcome! Welcome! Come one, come all. Three more problems–99 in all.

What I’ve learned from this arduous journey is that sometimes I am the problem.  I take on things that aren’t even intended for me, but I see an opportunity for growth in these divine appointments — a gift that I don’t often use — the gift of discernment. I always ask God to use me. I said, “I want to be a beacon for Christ.” Well, what does a beacon do? It guides or warns of impending danger.   As a beacon for Christ, people will always come toward me, but I must discern my purpose right away. Do I just listen, or do I give input? Do I take on these problems, or assist with resolving them? That’s part of what it means to live for Christ. You will sometimes battle the enemy and sometimes battle yourself. No matter the struggle, put on your armor and keep fighting the good fight.