I had, for one school year, a roommate who was another teacher. For the most part, it was a wonderful experience. We gave each other not only company but encouragement in our chosen career. We car pooled to work together. And, of course, each of us had to pay only half the rent.
The problem with having a roommate, however, is putting up with the roommate.
Take, for example, one weekend day when my friend told me she was leaving for a few hours. Okay, that was fine. Except . . . when I left my bedroom and walked into the living room, I couldn’t help but notice a foul odor coming from the kitchen.
Upon investigation, I discovered the source was some pickles that had gone bad: an entire jar of rancid pickles that my roommate had somehow managed to jam into the garbage disposal.
Just the smell was making me sick, so I knew I had to do something about it right away. Well, a garbage disposal won’t run, you know, if you’ve wedged something in there so tightly that it can’t operate. I decided to dig the pickles out with a fork.
But they were so jammed in I couldn’t even do that. There was no way, I knew, that an entire jar of pickles had randomly fallen in like this—she had to have worked hard to squeeze them in. I had to get our apartment manager to come help me. After about half an hour of sweating and digging, we were able to get enough out to allow the disposal to work.
A couple hours later, my roommate came walking in the door.
“Did you forget something before you left?” I asked.
She frowned in confusion. “No . . . I don’t think so.”
“Something in the kitchen?” I prompted.
Her look of confusion did not change.
“Something to do with . . . pickles?”
Realization dawned. “Oh! Those!”
She thought I was unreasonable for complaining about it.
Now this is going to surprise you, but years later I realized she was right. Complaining is the last thing I should have been doing. Instead, I should have been rejoicing.
In Colossians 1:24 St. Paul gives us one of the strangest verses in the Bible: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.”
I had, in other words, once again let slip by an opportunity for a suffering I could have offered up for someone else, mainly my roommate. And it wasn’t even all that much of a suffering!
God grant me the grace to recognize these moments when I, like St. Paul, can rejoice by offering up my sufferings—and to offer them for the person who has caused them.