I was sitting on my cousin's counter, years ago, after helping her get settled in her new house in Phoenix. I was lamenting to my Aunt Nancy. At the time I was discouraged because my brothers were making poor decisions and my relationships with them were suffering. I was explaining to Nancy that I was making noble efforts only to have them rebuffed.
"I took cookies to his new house and it didn't change anything. He doesn't notice my efforts and it isn't changing his life. I don't think I'm going to do anything anymore. I can't be the only one trying. I'm probably just enabling him anyway."
Aunt Nancy kindly asked, "Did God tell you to bring the cookies?"
I was miffed. "I'm sure God wants me to be nice to my brothers. I- I guess I didn't ask specifically about the cookies."
"If you ask the Lord and He tells you to bring cookies and things still don't improve between you and your brother, do you think you could conclude, 'I'm doing what God asked of me and the rest is up to Him'?"
All of my controlling, oldest-sibling, results-driven nerves stood on end.
"Even if your brothers don't reciprocate, you can have peace that you obeyed what Jesus asked you to do in that relationship."
Oh, wait. Something might need to be resolved in me, not just in my brothers?
That warm evening, sitting with legs folded on a kitchen counter amidst moving boxes, I experienced a paradigm shift. It didn't change my relationship with my brothers but it turned my expectations and motivation to the Lord. It freed me from trying to control and manipulate. It stopped me from believing it was up to me to turn things around. It caused me to intentionally pray for them, for my own heart, for God's purposes, in a big sense and in the little daily business of baking cookies.
I read two separate articles a couple weeks ago that left me unsettled. The first was about parenting. It had great Biblical principles about discipline and loving with grace- all things I agree with. Yet something grated on me and I couldn't put my finger on it.
The second was an article on marriage. It was well organized with great helps for marriage: know your spouse's love language, submit to your husband, keep God first and your husband second, only speak edifying words, pray for your spouse. My irritation was building and it surprised me. "What's my problem? This is good stuff." I tried to suppress my reaction.
Just throwing myself out there a bit...