I can honestly report to you that I am doing OK. I do not feel afraid right now. Something has been allowing me to live above my circumstances. Allowing me to live up higher and float slightly above the reality we face. It’s not illegal drugs 🙂 or tired cliches of God not giving me more than I can handle. It’s not a unicorn farting sparkly fairy dust or a mantra.
It’s gratitude. My readings and listenings and thinkings and prayings have led me to a special place of thanks. I’m grateful. For my life so far. My family. My friends. My job. The love of many. Everything is a gift. I’m reading this cool book that is right in line with this. It’s called One Thousand Gifts. (Score another one for my mentor, Lisa.) It’s encouraged me in this thinking.
Our problem is entitlement, and not just the millenials. All of us. Between Hollywood, fairytales, and everybody’s Facebook highlight reel, we think we deserve a loving partner, our health, freedom from pain, a dog that doesn’t chew the couch, a DVR with endless memory, perky boobs, a sweet ride, a head full of hair and perfectly above average children.
That’s what seems “normal” so we think we deserve at least that. So and so has it, why can’t I?
There are a few problems with this thinking:
-people have more problems than you think they do. Believe me, I know. Because when you have my kind of problems, people reach out and tell you their problems. Which I love and see as a gift. Seriously. People have illnesses they don’t want to tell you about, pain that is difficult to share, shame that requires medication and worries that rattle them to the core. But their family photos look sunny and fun, their smile is firmly plastered and they are deeply committed to making you believe everything is fine. (Unsolicited advice: Be a safe haven instead of a competitor.)
-most of the world has nothing close to those things you think you require in order to be ok. Much of the world is inhabited by people who are not sure where their next meal is coming from, if their sister will die during childbirth, if a bomb will destroy their home, if the water is safe to drink or if an anaconda will eat them. (The last one is sort of made up.)
If you’re reading this, you’re one of the lucky ones. Put here by God and your ancestors hard work and decent genes. Forget about the facelift and the $400 sneakers (unless you can have them AND truly be thankful. Which, I think, is hard.)
-if you feel entitled to those things, you can’t appreciate them. And you’re missing so much! Look around your house…The one that isn’t big enough or nice enough. Can you give thanks for it? Try. Your kids/spouse/brother are crazy. If only they would just… Stop. Look at them. They are so great. Just give thanks for them.
-perfect isn’t normal. You know what is normal? Some mix of monotony, love, tragic loss, fun, boredom, physical pain, pleasant enjoyment, white hot fear, depression, hilarity, relief, dullness, excitement, betrayal, surprise, anger, healing. That’s a lot more normal than a perfect family that never has any problems. How about we expect to have problems, small and occasionally big, and learn to respond with a thankful heart – yes, crying, screaming and such is fine for a time. We all have to experience difficult emotions one way or another. But there is great comfort and opportunity on the other side of that wall of fear you think you can’t get over. There is a ladder nearby. It is called Gratitude.
When you begin to see everything as a gift, your perspective changes. Realizing you’ve been acting like you deserve something is a wake up call. You’ll think “why?” Why have you acted this way? This entitlement? Because you do good stuff sometimes or try to do less bad stuff, or you go to church or don’t swear or something? That’s very common and understandable but let’s be real – it’s bad theology and simply not how life works. Fred Rogers died of stomach cancer. Shit happens. To really great people.
But there is so much hope in letting go of the entitlement.
Your heart grows and your brain relaxes and you unclench your fists and you begin to take in the scenery a little better. Set backs are less devastating, because…look at all of these gifts! Maybe you didn’t get the Malibu Barbie, but there’s a freaking Cabbage Patch Kid over there!
Yes, there is cancer. That nasty thing. But also…
There is a friend who would move mountains. A mom and dad at the ready. There’s a good job. A strong husband. There’s your aunt who really loves you. There’s a cold drink. A warm bed. A fluffy cat. Your little girl with mischief in her eye and love in her heart. There’s The Golden Girls when you can’t sleep.
And if you see that there is a gift giver and He is the mighty captain of this ship, and He is big and good and generous and very skilled at steering. Well, then you can enjoy the gifts and enjoy the ride.