White Knuckles and Clenched Teeth: A Lesson in Control
Control is such a funny thing. When you lose it, bad things can happen. When you demand it, bad things can happen. Many of us fight for it only to (hopefully) figure out that we were trying to control the things in God's power and neglecting the ones in our own. I am very guilty of allowing someone else's actions - that may not even be about me, in front of me or to me - consume me and affect my attitude, which often works like poison to those around me. Often in those situations, the right thing for me to do is nothing when it comes to that other person or situation. Just mind ya business, you might say. Nothing good would come from me getting involved! And yet, I sit stewing in my reactions to it with white knuckles and clenched teeth when I really need to be consumed with the responsibilities right in front of me.
2020 will certainly be known as the year God reminded us how volatile our lives really are. Certainly there are very tragic losses from this virus and shutdowns, but even those of us who have fared with only moderate inconveniences cannot deny how fragile our arguments are about normal life. "I don't have time for that." "I could never be able to manage that." "It wouldn't work anyway." Everyone I talk to has a few complaints for sure, but then comes back around to all of the beautiful blessings that they have experienced because of more time spent at home with each other. It's not that I'm trying to sing the praises of a shutdown or make light of this virus' negative impact. Those that live alone or are separated from family may obviously be suffering more. What I am seeing and experiencing though is a revitalizing reminder that our families are important. Not just important, but MORE important than the endless sports schedule, MORE important than a steady flow of new things, MORE important than whatever tempts us to neglect these precious years we have together.
On any given day, the semblance of control we think we have might be taken away. The order we so intentionally planned out might get high-jacked by a natural disaster or an emergency Wednesday, as my mother affectionately calls them, where a Wednesday often find itself packed full of surprise fires that need to be put out. Instead of getting sucked back into this control game (that is usually just an exercise in futility anyway), we have to stay focused on the things we truly do control every day no matter what is happening in the world.
Things we actually control:
1. The way we treat others. Even if my resources are lacking, I can still be kind and loving with my words. Yes, especially on social media.
2. The way we talk to ourselves. The thoughts that we allow to live in our head are under our control (severe mental health issues aside). We will never please everyone so it's our responsibility to decide to listen to what God says first and foremost and then realize the quality of our thoughts (positive or negative) directly affects our feelings and actions.
3. How often we talk to God and spend time in His word. Praying, when done well and often, becomes as second nature as breathing. We can control how much time and thought we put into our prayers. Studying the Bible isn't quite as easy, but still with the never ending ways to interact with it through our electronic devices, even those of us with the busiest schedule really don't have an excuse.
As the country gradually opens up and our schedules start filling, I really want to work on disciplining my mind to focus on what I can control rather than getting distracted with things I can do little or nothing about. Pray for me, would you? I have a feeling I'm going to be very bad at this! :)