The other day I made a list of things that bug me—little things I can’t seem to eradicate from my life. Here they are:
- a cluttered house
- children who argue
- slow cars in the fast lane
- long grocery-store lines
- clerks who are rude
- plugged toilets
- computer malfunctions
- pop-up windows
- calling a helpline and getting none
- misplacing my keys or phone
- people who don’t clean up after their dogs
Admittedly, none of this is big stuff. But it’s often the little stuff that threatens to steal my peace. Listen to what a seventeenth-century spiritual writer by the name of Claude de la Colombière says about the annoyances that plague us:
“All our life is sown with tiny thorns that produce in our hearts a thousand involuntary movements of hatred, envy, fear, impatience, a thousand little fleeting disappointments, a thousand slight worries, a thousand disturbances that momentarily alter our peace of soul. For example, a word escapes that should not have been spoken. Or someone says something that offends us. A child inconveniences you. A bore stops you. You don’t like the weather. Your work is not going according to plan. A piece of furniture is broken. A dress is torn. I know that these are not occasions for practicing very heroic virtue. But they would definitely be enough to acquire it if we really wished to do so.”1
So what should I do with my list of annoyances? Tear it up? Wish it away? Or let it remind me that God has a tried and true strategy for building up his life in me? Come to think of it, maybe I should take that list and draw lots of thistles and thorns around it, reminding myself that far from stealing my peace, little stuff can increase it.
- George Guitton, Perfect Friend: The Life of Blessed Claude la Colombière, trans. William J. Young (St. Louis: B. Herder Book Company, 1956), 326, quoted and paraphrased in Bert Ghezzi, Adventures in Daily Prayer (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2010), 59.