I wrote this story two years ago. I hope you enjoy and maybe even relate! If you can, please leave me a comment!
I had woken up on the last day of the year to a crying sky. Tired from entertaining a house full of family over the Christmas holidays, the weather matched my frame of mind that morning. After lying around in our pajamas for too long, my husband and I realized that we had just twenty minutes to dress and head for church. This Sunday was turning out to be like so many others, I quickly realized with dismay. The kids were not getting dressed fast enough, my eyes seemed to be the only ones able to find every lost and necessary item, and the clock kept mercilessly ticking away. I entered my daughter’s bedroom to see how Jenna was faring with putting on her tights. Oblivious to the huge hole in the front of one of the legs, she was grinning on the bed as she proudly put on her summer sandals. My stress level had reached its peak as I sat down on the bed and asked her to look down at her tights. “You know you can’t wear those!” I fumed. With an exasperated sigh, I quickly went to her drawer to find another pair of tights. She looked up at me with eyes that told me I had crushed her during her moment of joy over her accomplishment at picking out the tights and shoes all by herself. I was in no mood to show her any compassion as I barked out the order to pick up her shoes in her hand and run to the van.
Our van’s condition only added to my despair. Banged up with dents and scratches on every panel of the ten-year-old body, the vehicle had definitely left its glory days far behind. As though it were bitter about its condition, its voice groaned with squeaks and sounds that were most unbecoming. “Well,” I mused, as I stepped into it for the ten- minute drive to church, “everyone will know that we have arrived. We can’t help but make a conspicuous entrance wherever we go in this thing.” My husband, to my horror, pulled right up in front of the sanctuary doors where four people were waiting as greeters. A crimson flush started up my neck as I realized that they would see the mess on the floor of the van made up of papers, articles of clothing, crumbs, and old wrappers we had failed to remove as I opened the door for my children to get out.
As soon as we entered through the back door of the sanctuary, my heart sank as I saw every seat was taken. With the congregation already singing the second song of the morning, my mind quickly went back to last year’s New Year’s Eve service. We had been late to that service also and had to be escorted to the very last seats available in the front row. I hoped against hope, standing there trying to scope out a seat, that I could avoid the added humiliation of having every eye on us if we had to march down to the front of the church. The friendly usher was signaling to me to come with him. As I rounded the corner made of standing congregants, I saw him wave to me from three-quarters of the way down the aisle on one of the side sections. I took a deep breath, relieved to think that we were going to soon blend in with the crowd in that row. Just as I was approaching the coveted section, my eyes saw that there was no room for us as the row was full. The gentleman leading us turned and walked briskly to the very front row in the middle section of the auditorium. I imagined all the wagging heads, stares, and gasps over our tardiness as I instructed my children that this is where we were going to sit for the next hour, eyeball to eyeball with the choir and pastoral staff.
After the stress of trying to keep up the façade of the perfect family for those sixty minutes and not being able to concentrate on the sermon because of all the dirty looks I shot at my children in an effort to keep up the lie of perfection I hoped we were pulling off, I left the service completely exhausted and upset. Upon our arrival at home, my husband started preparing dinner and the kids went downstairs to play. I went upstairs to change and feel sorry for myself. I replayed in my mind all the horrible things that had happened that day to put me in such a foul mood, starting with the rain. Self-pity came and sat down next to me and put its arm around me. Instead of just reviewing the last five hours, I started thinking about all the reasons why I was justified in feeling that life was unfair.
I was jarred from my reverie to the sounds of sobbing and loud exclamations coming from my middle daughter. I reluctantly went downstairs. “Mom, is it true that you already spent all the money that Grandma sent me on the presents I just got for Christmas?” she asked in an incredulous voice. My mother-in-law had sent each one of her grandchildren a specific amount of money to buy a special Christmas gift from her and Grandpa. I nodded my head at my daughter. “What!” Jordyn queried. “You did? That was my money! How could you do something so unfair?”
This was the icing on the cake of my less than perfect day. I opened my mouth to pour out my frustration on my daughter for her lack of gratitude, when the Holy Spirit shut my mouth. As He has so many times, He showed me my own lack of trust, my fears, and my insecurities mirrored through the lives of one of my children. The reason I was about to lash out at Jordyn, I realized as a result of her tirade, was because my precious eight-year-old and I shared the same debilitating sickness—an ungrateful heart.
Philippians 3:1 says:
“Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you.”
I chose to start my day disobedient to God’s Word in my attitude. Instead of rejoicing in the fact that the Lord had allowed all of my family to be together for Christmas for the first time in several years, I had reflected on all the extra work that had come with their presence. Instead of rejoicing with my darling six-year-old over her independence and building her up, I chose to overlook her little victory and cause her pain. Instead of rejoicing over the fact that our tired van was still reliable enough to get us where we needed to go, I chose to fume over how unfair it was that we had to drive around in it. Instead of rejoicing over the fact that so many people filled the church’s sanctuary, with the great possibility that among those in attendance were some who had never heard about the gift of salvation through Christ, my focus was one of self-absorption as I imagined judgment from others and resented the fact that we had to sit in the front row.
I gently explained to Jordyn my reasons for spending the Christmas check from Grandma. She had failed to realize that the money had been a necessity to produce in her the squeals of delight she had made over the presents she received Christmas morning. I saw trust replace the distrust in her eyes as we talked through the situation. Finally, with tears in her eyes, she said, “Mommy, I wanted you to apologize to me because I thought you were unfair to me. Now I see that I should be apologizing to you. I am sorry for my bad attitude.”
Why is it a safeguard for me to rejoice? Because rejoicing keeps me from the downward spiral of futile thinking caused by my lack of gratitude. I must rejoice in all things, for this is the will of God for me in Christ Jesus. Being thankful keeps me from despair and the tragic inability to see my circumstances as the blessing His presence has the power to make them. With tears in my eyes, I repeated to my wonderful, merciful Savior the words of my eight-year-old teacher:
“Lord, I wanted to wallow in my self-pity because I thought You were unfair to me. Now I see that I should be apologizing to You. Please forgive me for my bad attitude.”
Peace flooded my soul with the assurance that His forgiveness was mine for my contrite confession. My prayer is that I will learn to live more and more in the safety that comes from the obedience of choosing to be joyful, regardless of whether I believe my circumstances warrant the disobedience of a contrary attitude.