Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Choose Your Own Adventure

I'm going to be talking about a ground-breaking revelation today that will probably shock you to the core.  Here it is:  You can't control the people around you, and force them to behave in a way that will make you happy.  Oh... was that an obvious point I just made?   Well, sometimes it is worth it to spend time pondering these types of statements.

For example:

You can't control the *idiot* driver in front of you, who forgets to signal and swerves maniacally into your lane, nearly causing you to careen into oncoming traffic and almost pee your pants.

You can't control the snarly server that acts as though serving Hitler would be more enjoyable than serving you your meal that day, and she never fills your water glass and ignores your table, forgetting to bring your bill even though you've been done your meal for 38 minutes and 26 seconds. 

And you most certainly can't control the red-faced, screaming, spitting, spazzing toddler in the cereal aisle at WalMart, whose shrill, siren-like protest manages to give you a splitting headache and cause your eyes to bug out in horrified agitation.  The best thing you can do is get away, as quickly as possible.  Oh wait.  That's your screaming toddler.

I get frustrated by other people's actions dozens of times a day.  I know I shouldn't... I should be a sweet, patient, caring person, full of the joy of the Lord.  But I'm human!  Things get to me, even after I've "purposed in my heart" to make it a good day, and to be more humble, thankful, pleasant and gracious.  Actually, it seems like when I truly make a point of praying about these attributes in the morning, by lunchtime, I have frazzled hair, shaking hands, a palpitating heart and some kind of weird twitch on one side of my face.

There really must be an alternative, right?  Here's the thought I had.  Remember those "Choose Your Own Adventure" books that were in the library when you were a kid (or maybe your children read them)?  I think every situation gives us an opportunity to choose.  No one forces you to be angry or sad or overwhelmed.  True, life presents situations where these emotions pop up and are very real.  However, your choice in the matter is how you will act going forward.  There is a silver lining to every cloud, and I've found that even in the bad situations of life - like the alternator in our van dying and leaving us stranded on the side of the road - there is something to be thankful for.  Instead of being totally bummed that our van was dead, we looked around and realized with amazement that we were only a few blocks from home and weren't going to be stuck waiting for a ride.

I know that not everything has a quick, easy remedy, and sometimes you can't change a bad situation and have to live with the challenge (or maybe even challenging people) for longer than you would like.  What do you do in this circumstance?  Choose your own adventure... that's what I'm thinking!  Don't let other people dictate the state of your emotions in life.  There is always a processing that needs to occur - whether it takes a few seconds and a simple, conscious decision to move on - or whether you need to get away and seek strength from God.  The problem is when you let other people's words, actions and even their attitudes and emotional state steep in your teapot, so to speak.  If you've ever watched the way a tea bag diffuses color into hot water, it doesn't take long for the entire pot to become colored without pressure or external force. 

We would be wise to do what is recommended in scripture, in 1 Peter 5:7

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

I've heard this scripture described as telling us that we literally need to envision throwing our cares and concerns over, onto Jesus, because He will be the one to carry it for us.  Ultimately, if you have given your life to Jesus, then it's more His problem than yours, anyway.  I know that is easier said than done, but I'm sure you've heard it said before that "confession is good for the soul".  I've noticed that my kids have no trouble with confession.  In fact, they not only want to confess their problems and upsets in life, but they are more than willing to divulge the nature of their sibling's troubles as well.  What is really amazing though, is that if you take the time to acknowledge what they are saying, and indicate that you care and want to help them, they are instantly relieved.  When they're really young, they don't even care about the details of how you will fix things or work it out, their burden is instantly lifted simply because you listened.  

I would venture to say that we could have that same measure of relief if we would talk to God a lot more about what bugs us.  He truly cares about the everyday things - He knows the number of hairs on your head, and is aware when even a sparrow falls to the ground.  So, I'm thinking that He must care (even just a little bit) when I find my toothbrush has been dropped into the bathroom garbage again by one my kids, and it makes me angry.  He cares when we suddenly have to pay a large, unexpected bill and we feel overwhelmed and don't know where the money will come from.  He cares when you have a conflict with your best friend, and hasty words have hurt you.  
This journey called life leaves us many opportunities to choose what direction we will take and what attitude we will embrace.   We have the chance to let go and move forward in this adventure, not being held back by those around us.  The choice is all yours.

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