I think I probably talk a lot about being grateful. It’s something that I have worked hard to drill into my spirit. Especially over the past year. Paying attention to all that we have - even in the more difficult times - reminds us of how loved we really are by God. When we focus on all we have, our perspective is challenged. Our minds are renewed. Our thoughts are controlled.
We all know it can always be worse. We say it all the time. But we don’t live it all the time.
Today I was feeling super optimistic and good. Just one of those days where everything feels bright and shiny right off the bat. Joel and I headed into Walmart early to beat the crowds and so I could have him back in time for the sacred morning nap. I was conscious of my full cart in comparison to the less than ten items in the cart behind us. The guy was texting, so I waited until he was through and asked if he wanted to go ahead of me. He said it was no big deal, that he was happy to wait. And I had that feeling that you get when you were uncharacteristically nice to a stranger. Maybe it was the Christmas music pumping through the sound system.
But what happened once the car was loaded, the baby was buckled in and we headed home? I was singing to the radio when someone pulled out in front of me. And of course, as always happens when someone pulls out in front of you, they decided to go so slow that you had to question whether or not their vehicle was actually moving. I was immediately aggravated. I mean, seriously? They couldn’t have waited two seconds for me to pass?
It’s amazing how quick those flares in us come to life. We can go from being happily smiling at strangers to wanting to run over them. What is that about? Pride? Selfishness? Lack of self-control? Pure habit? All of the above?
“We say it all the time.
A fight with the boss.
Stomach flu. Traffic.
That’s what we describe as terrible...
when nothing terrible is happening.”
~ G r e y ’ s A n a t o m y
I’ve seen lots of complaints recently about Daylight Savings Time, for instance. Jokes about how the leaders who put that into action must not have babies. Because if they did, they would understand the pure havoc it wreaks on all of us young mothers. My son is waking up an hour earlier, no matter how I try to retrain him. He’s not the only one. I’m not the only one with an overly tired toddler in the early evening and a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed kid, ready to take on the world when it’s still pitch black out. But, I mean, really? In the grand scheme of things... when you step back and look at the big picture... okay, so it’s an hour earlier. But you still have your healthy, perfect baby waking up every day. In your own home. You aren’t holding a sick child as they go through chemo treatments in a sterile hospital room.
We say it could always be worse, but we don’t love like it. We say we know we could have a worse schedule, but we still complain about the one we have. We understand that people suffer loss that we don’t quite understand and resolve to hold our husbands tighter and make more time for our grandparents and not get so impatient with Cheerios thrown on the floor. But do we? Do we make the time? Do we pause and weigh our words, our attitudes? Are we just focused on all the minute details... and why? Why don’t we look around? Why are we so focused on how bad it is right here in front of us vs. focusing on how gosh darn blessed we truly are?
I think sometimes we believe it’s beyond our control. This is just how the world works, how moods work, how things go. Everyone complains about the same things. But what happens to you, to your day, to your entire perspective, when you turn the every day complaints into a time to give thanks?
For instance, Joel just woke up from his nap. Wasn’t as long as I would have preferred, but he’s awake. And I could roll my eyes and sigh and not go get him until I’m done here, or I could rush to his room, excited to see his smiling face. I could feel annoyed that my plans for the morning got interrupted and the shower is going to have to wait until later, or I could take five minutes and cuddle down into the couch with my son, enjoying his warmth and taking in how kissable those sleep-reddened cheeks are.
We need to slow down. The way we savor our favorite warm beverage on these cool days is how we should be with those every day moments in our lives. The way we swirl the taste around our tongues, reveling in how much warmer we feel already - that’s how we should live our days. Not necessarily running from one thing to the next, trying to cram more stuff into a life. We don’t need to be hoarders or rabid to-do-list finishers (although I do so love my lists).
But we need to be lovers. Givers. We need to slow down enough so that we can realize that maybe the person ahead of us is driving slow because they don’t feel competent to drive any faster. Maybe the stranger who won’t stop talking to us is merely lonely, not creepy or weird or not worth our time. Maybe our husbands need more kindness and less nagging. Maybe our kids need softer reprimands from us instead of sharp and quick tugging on their little arms.
We are so quick to jump on things to be flustered about.
If it’s a habit, beat it out with a new habit. If it’s pride, get over yourself. If it’s impatience, well, then you better start praying for patience. If it’s a lack of self-control or a lack of mind control, then you better start washing things out and starting over. A friend once said that sin is not something to manage. And it’s not. It’s something to eradicate from our lives. We justify too much. And are ungrateful for too little.
It’s easy to focus on the big sins. It’s easy to avoid those. But it’s a bigger challenge to pull the naughty out, piece by piece. It is the “little foxes that ruin the vines” (Song of Solomon 2:15). It’s not always a roaring stampede. Sometimes it’s those fast little blurs that skirt around. Don’t explain or wave them away. Confess the impatience, the judging, the selfishness for what it is. Sin.
And then give thanks.
“These are the things we beg for. A root canal.
An IRS audit. Coffee spilled on our clothes.
When the really terrible things happen
we start begging God...
It seems quaint now, doesn’t it?
The flood in the kitchen. The poison oak.
The fight that leaves you shaking with rage.
Would it have helped if we could see what was
coming? Would we have known that these
were the best moments of our lives?”
~ G r e y ’ s A n a t o m y