The thing that was to have been a help to me turned out to be just that—but not in the way I imagined. After living in Nepal for about a year, I decided that the time had come to venture into the world of obtaining house help. I felt a bit guilty about it all, as if I was not keeping up with my responsibilities, as if I was taking the easy way out. However, in a very poor country it takes a lot of energy to get through the daily activities of life. All my time, thoughts, and energy were being put into our home (not a bad place, mind you), but none toward that dreaded area of language study. So, in order to find the time to meet with a tutor and study Nepali on my own, I needed to hire a woman to help with the hand washing of the laundry and chores around the house.
I prayed about what to do, who to hire, and how to work everything out. One day I was approached by a lady as I walked home from the store. She saw my infant son and wanted to offer her services for child care. I was not interested. She then asked if I had anyone to do the laundry or shopping. After finding that I did not, she offered her services. We exchanged names and numbers, and I thought no more of the little slip of paper in my bag until a week later when we received a phone call. It was the lady I had met on the street. She wanted to come and talk.
After a few meetings, we decided to hire her. My husband was not so sure, but he left the decision up to me. I may have rushed things. I was hoping it was God providing for us, since after praying I met her on the street. In addition,, I knew of no one else for the job, and I really wanted to get started studying. I urged my husband to hire her. In retrospect, I wonder if I should have heeded my husband’s hesitations. Nevertheless, God can work in any situation and bring good from it: And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)
So, we now had house help. She was in her early thirties, left by her husband, trying to raise her three teenage boys. She needed a job and was a Christian, and it seemed a perfect fit. Until…until…I found that she did not really understand how I wanted things done even after I had shown her several times. She was a slow worker, not a very good cook (we had hoped for lunches but quickly nixed those), arrived at least ten minutes late each day, and started asking to be first in line to receive our furniture whenever the time should come that we would leave. I was shocked, disappointed, and annoyed. The first two emotions soon wore off, but the annoyance turned to continual frustration and a dread of hearing her footsteps coming up the stairs at 10 (or 10:10) each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning.
Finally, we had a meeting with her and explained that she was not meeting our expectations. To our surprise, we learned that she had some of her own expectations that we were not meeting either. She wondered why we had not invited her and her family over for dinner, and she hoped that we would pay for her sons’ schooling, among a few other things. We talked, and things went smoothly for several months. Then little problems started cropping up again. As time had passed, I was getting a better idea of how to work with house help and how to run my house, but it seemed like she was slipping back and forgetting the basics of tasks I asked her to do.
I wondered, Am I expecting too much from her? Am I trying to make her live up to my cultural ideas when she doesn’t have a clue? We talked again. She said she would try to remember how I wanted things done and explained that she needed more money and wanted a raise. My husband gave her a raise. She seemed to try harder, for a little while.
Our life went on with her in a similar pattern for a year. During that time, I never stopped wishing I did not have her for my house help, or dreading when she came. Walking around my house and seeing the things she had not done right irked me so much. I often found my thoughts dwelling on the situation, my flesh wallowing in the misery of having this bothersome person in my life. My peace was gone, chased far away by my self-pity, anger, and bitterness.
I would pray about the situation, but nothing seemed to change. My heart was WRONG, WRONG, WRONG, and God was not going to do anything about the situation until I saw it (which I did), and was desirous to change (which I was), and was repentant of my sin in the matter (which I was not). I had to stop and remember that no matter what my house helper’s faults in the situation, mine were there, too. I could not do anything about her (except fire her, and we did not believe our feelings were a valid reason to fire her), but I could certainly do something about me. Well, actually, I could not even do anything about me. All I could do was to offer myself, full of pride and bitterness toward another sister in Christ, at the feet of the Lord Jesus and tell Him I was wrong and ask Him to please, oh please, fix me.
So I did just that. I wanted to be rid of the miserable thoughts that filled my mind and upset me. I wanted a good relationship with the person who came into my house several days a week. I wanted things right between me and my Lord. I decided to pray that God would either change my helper so I would enjoy having her in my house, or change the situation so she was not in my house, or change me so I would be happy and joyful and content with her in my house.
The Lord chose the last, as I was almost certain He would. He wanted my own self first.
(…but first gave their own selves to the Lord. II Corinthians 8:5) He knew some changes needed to happen in me: changes in my attitude and thoughts and perspective. There was dross that He wanted to burn out, rough edges to smooth. Changes almost never feel good, but I welcomed them. I was tired of my self and the ways of my flesh. I saw what a powerful thing my thoughts were and how they could affect how I felt. (For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he. Proverbs 23:7)
In the next weeks I found that my attitude changed toward my helper. The Lord changed my heart and washed away the wrong feelings, giving me a new heart toward her. The bitterness was gone, and I felt some pity for her situation. Perhaps my demeanor toward her changed, or perhaps the Lord worked in her heart as well, because things seemed to work a little better around the house in the next months as well. Things were by no means perfect—not at all. But I was different. I saw how the Lord could make me more like Him through this situation. I could learn to be more tender toward others, more forgiving of others’ faults (remembering the numerous ones of my own), more patient with others.
I also realized a lesson concerning my thoughts. I learned in this situation that if I chose—and it is a choice—to think on the trouble I was having with my house helper, then the bitter feelings, the proud thoughts, the self-pity and supposed injustices would all flood into my mind and heart. My peace would vanish, my joy would be gone, and the Holy Spirit’s influence in my life would be just about nil. I did not want that, and I had to choose not to think on the situation in that manner. If I found my thoughts headed that direction, I could sing, think on what the Lord had done for me, or try to think on good things about the situation.
It was hard to change at first, but God faithfully taught me through my Bible reading and prayer time, through short prayers for help throughout the day, and through reminders in my heart. Soon my thoughts no longer traveled the well-worn path they had glided down so easily before. Instead, they were focused on things that were true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report, virtue and praise (Philippians 4:8).
I needed some change, and although I was not aware of it, God was. He worked in my life through my helper to give me the needed change. A change in my heart. Needed changes that were good.