Lately I’ve found myself thinking about John Rankin, a guy who was in the Christian fellowship group with me at Denison University over 40 years ago. John wasn’t one of my best friends—far from it. In fact, he was one of those people who constantly got under my skin and pushed my buttons.
Have you had people like that in your life?
John was a freshman, and I was a senior. I was the main leader of the group, and he was a newbie. Under those circumstances, you would think he would show me some respect, wouldn’t you?
My problem with John Rankin was his obnoxious arrogance. At 18 years of age, he was one of the most egotistical men I’ve ever met. And although he was a newcomer to the group, he thought he knew better than everyone else. If you look up “Know It All” in the dictionary, I bet you’ll see a picture of John Rankin.
Don’t you hate it when someone thinks they know it all?
I’ll never forget the day things came to a head in our relationship. John wanted to put his favorite song in our fellowship songbook: “Do Lord.”
Isn’t that the dumbest thing you’ve ever heard? You undoubtedly know the song: “Do Lord, oh do Lord, oh do remember me, oh Lordy…”
You see, everyone knows that silly song, which is one of the reasons it was totally unnecessary to add it to our songbook.
I also strongly objected to the song’s warped theology. I tried to explain to John that because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, we are eternally “remembered” and accepted by the Father. There’s certainly no need to beg Him to remember us!
Yes, John always wanted to change things…always thought he knew better…always wanted to get his way. The young man clearly had a spirit of control, and the songbook incident was just one of the most memorable examples.
Perhaps you’re wondering why John Rankin has been on my mind lately—over four decades since I last had contact with him. I wondered that too at first. But then I realized there’s someone in my life today who reminds me of John Rankin! Yikes… I thought I was done with him forever, and it’s as if he’s back.
Once again, my buttons are being pushed. Once again, I find myself offended by a know-it-all guy who thinks he knows better than I do. Once again, I’m going bonkers because I discern that someone has a controlling spirit.
However, I’ve concluded that God must have wanted me to learn some lessons during my encounters with John Rankin at Denison—and my encounters today with the person who reminds me of him. So I’ve asked Him to show me what’s going on here, and the lessons have turned out to be both hilarious and painful:
- If you don’t learn what you’re supposed to learn from the first “John Rankin,” God will keep sending you other ones. Failing to learn this vital principle, people go from marriage to marriage, job to job, and church to church, trying to escape the thorny people in their life. But everywhere they go, they find someone else who pushes the same buttons! In case you haven’t realized it yet, there are John Rankins EVERYWHERE!
- If people keep pushing your buttons, it’s time to ask God to heal those buttons so the cycle stops happening. I’ve always loved the old maxim that says, “If someone gets your goat, it just goes to show you’ve got one!” You see, God purposely sends us people He knows will offend us. Why? Because He wants to reveal and heal the hypersensitive, easily offended areas of our life.
- In many cases, we’re offended by people who have the same personality trait we have. One preacher calls this principle “If you can spot it, you’ve got it!” It shouldn’t have been any great mystery why I was so offended by John’s controlling spirit. I didn’t want him to be in control, because I wanted to be in control! Why was I so upset by his know-it-all attitude? Because I thought I knew better than he did! And the reason I was offended by his song selection was because I was certain my songs were better.
So now that I realize what’s going on with this phenomenon, I’m asking God to expose and heal my buttons pushed by people like John Rankin. And since my own pride has been the root cause of my offenses in these cases, the healing process is requiring me to humble myself before the Lord and admit my own tendency to be a controlling, know-it-all person who wants to get my own way.
I’ve lost touch with John Rankin over the years, but I would love to track him down somehow. John, if you’re out there somewhere, please contact me.
It would be great to find out if John Rankin is still the same brash, controlling person he was at Denison. And I’m sure he wonders the same about me.
I encourage you to take a moment and sincerely thank God for the John Rankins in your life. If you allow the Lord to do His work in your heart, He will use people like that to make you more like Jesus.
I know some John Rankings ! Yes they are obnoxious and hard to deal with. I often wondered why they came into my life. They often have some good traits as well.
Thanks for the feedback, Bob. Yes, indeed, God made the John Rankins of the world for a reason, and they have some good traits (somewhere!).
Ok, Jim. Per your advice, here goes: THANK YOU FOR BEING IN MY LIFE!
Your point is well taken, Jim. I plead guilty…
Love this, Jim! I guess because I’m a university professor I always say when in a similar situation that I have failed the mid-term again. God just has me taking that mid-term over and over until I get it right! We all fondly remember taking those mid-terms. NOT! 😊 Thank God I do sometimes learn what He’s teaching me.
Thanks for the great comments, Jane. Yes, indeed, it’s a great thing that God keeps giving us mid-terms until we (hopefully!) get things right.
Interesting thoughts Jim. I think you hit the nail on the head!! Thinking back to the time of fellowship together in Columbus I can appreciate that you were much less abrasive in your controlling. 😬😁
Rich, in recent years I’ve discovered that there’s very little in life that I can actually control. But I came up with a solution: a PowerPoint clicker! For under $100, I now can at least control my PowerPoint slides (most of the time, at least…). But controlling PEOPLE is a lot more difficult than controlling my PowerPoint slides!
This article is reminiscent of the way God showed Jacob how hard he was to live with. He sent him to live with Laban for 20 years, a man who deceived him into marrying his younger daughter, changed his wages 10 times and finagled his flock in and effort to cheat Jacob out of what was rightfully his. God has sent some “Labans” into my life too so I could get a good taste of my own medicine.
Great observations, Susan!
The older I get the more I see me in your blogs. They tend to often ask, “Are life’s lessons and God’s purposes changing me ? Do I understand to weigh them against the right backdrop in my life?
Thank you for sharing your introspections against A Godly perspective.