I am a stickler for “the way things should be.” And not in a good way.
Let me illustrate. Here are some things my longsuffering family members have heard from me over the years. You’ll notice many of them are holiday-related.
- It should always be hot and sunny on the Fourth of July. (More on that later)
- “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” should always be sung, every Easter Sunday, no matter what.
- The man of the house should always take out the garbage. After all, my dad always did.
- Everyone should be cheery and get along well when we play a family game.
- Lilies should never be used in any flower arrangement except for a funeral.
- “Scrooge” should always be watched on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Only the version with Alistair Sim.
- Meat should always be cooked till it’s almost burnt. (Sorry, everyone else in the world)
Last week, on July 4th, we went up to Mt Baker to play in the snow. Yep, we played in the snow… briefly, because we were in shorts and sandals., but Artist Point was still covered in snow. Now, this did not fit the template noted in #1. If it had been bright, sunny and warm, the snow on the ground would have been acceptable; however, it was partly cloudy and cool. The mental box in which I put July 4th is “hot and sunny,” and I was more than a little annoyed that the weather did not meet my expectations (more accurately, my mental demands).
My family was rightly trying to challenge me on this grumpy-pants approach to the day, and I stubbornly refused to capitulate, most of the day. They were having a grand time, no matter the cloud or sun situation, but I clung to my grumbling and hung the “it’s not right” banner over the day. I’m not sure when I came to my senses, but I tell you, when I did, I knew things had to change in my heart. It may not sound like an earthshaking moment, but by the evening fire and s’mores back home on our deck, I was pondering the truth that at 53, it might be time for me to grow up.
Who am I to say the way things “ought to be?” Did I hang the stars? Do I appoint clouds or shine the sun’s spotlight? Do I control (or, more importantly, should I?) the choice of worship songs at every church I will ever attend? Can I control what movies everyone wants to watch, or expect Kevin to always take out the garbage just because Dad did?
So two things are at play here: my lack of control, and my desire for control. I’m thinking it will be quite freeing indeed to decide that things actually don’t have to be any certain way. They certainly don’t have to be the way I want. Seems like the stress of hoping against hope that it will be sunny outside; or that people will behave in a way that’s pleasant to me; or that I will experience entertainment and food that satisfies me, actually hamstrings my days and holds my joy hostage. For things like this (preferences), there is no “way things ought to be.”
I am not in control. I should not be hoping for control. I have a good God who chooses to bless me in so many ways, it’s laughable if not offensive that I grasp for more. Enjoying what God gives, as opposed to inwardly dictating what those gifts should be, is how I want to roll.