A piercing shriek jars my thoughts, dragging my eyes from the computer screen. It takes half a second for the sound to register. The teapot! I bound down the stairs and into the kitchen, where a plume of steam rises from the spout as the high-pitched whistle gets louder and more insistent. Snatching the pot off the burner, I heave a sigh of relief as the noise stops.
“Thank the Lord for whistling teapots.” I murmur to the empty room, pouring the boiling water into my mug.
I don’t have the best track record when it comes to burners on the stove. Easily distracted, I tend to forget about my dinner cooking on the stove until the smell of burning food or a smoke alarm brings it to my attention. If all pots and pans came equipped with warning whistles like my teapot, I would avoid many a cooking catastrophe.
This morning as I sip my steaming mug of Earl Grey, I reflect on other “whistling teapots” in my life. When I was at the boiling point emotionally after four years of intense teaching in Asia, my brother Michael sat me down one day and told me, “We don’t need you here. You’re no good to anyone if you’re miserable. Go home.”
I didn’t want to hear it. But he was right. I was miserable. I was burnt-out. And I was in danger of burning others around me too. So I finally listened and went home to the U.S. for a much-needed break.
Listen to Wise Counsel
Even the great leader of the Israelites, Moses, had a “whistling teapot” in his life. His father-in-law, Jethro, warned Moses that he was heading for trouble trying to judge all the Israelite’s disputes himself. “What you are doing is not good,” Jethro said. “You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.” (Exodus 18:17-18, NIV). Jethro advised him to delegate responsibility to share the load, and thankfully Moses listened.
Who are the “whistling teapots” in your life? Maybe it’s a friend who loves you enough to confront you. Maybe it’s a family member who sees you approaching burnout and insists you take a break. What is your response? Will you continue boiling away, despite all the warning signs? Or will you listen to wise counsel? Maybe God will use you to be a “whistling teapot” for someone else in your life, too!
“Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise.” (Proverbs 15:31, NIV)