Wednesday, March 12, 2014

I find, then, a paradox

When I first started staying at home with my kids, I had big plans.

I just knew that I could keep the house clean, exercise, read, do some baking, make healthy meals all day long, and anything else I had a desire to do, all the while taking care of, spending time with, and teaching something to these children that were under my care.

Well that plan backfired.  Big time.

And it was hard for me.  Because, if you aren't aware, I am a perfectionist.  I expect a lot out of myself.  And if I don't live up to my standards, then I get frustrated and discouraged and consider myself a failure.

This is why I never excelled in sports.

So when I started staying home and had this big list of expectations, and couldn't live up to it, it frustrated me.  I would begin to clean something and get interrupted.  Or I was in the middle of reading a really good chapter.  Or I was trying to get the kids some super-healthified lunch that took way too much time to plan and put together.  Or I tried to do something creative with the kids and they weren't into it.  Or I just wanted them to leave me alone for two seconds.

But someone got mad, someone was thirsty, someone needed to go potty, someone got hurt, someone dumped dirt all over the dogs, someone tried to ride the bicycle up the slide (yep, I said up not down), someone was pulling the dogs around with bungee cords (you can't make this stuff up), someone needed me to get them a toy, someone was hungry, someone wanted to read a book, someone wanted to go outside, someone spilled their water all over the floor and under the table, someone dumped out all the puzzles, someone was fighting, someone was crying, someone didn't share, and the list could go on and on and on and on...

Wait, where was I?

Oh yeah.  I got frustrated.  Because things didn't go my way.

And, yes, I know that when you have kids, your life is not your own anymore.  And that's why this post is not just about having kids; it's about life in general.  The things that get in the way.

When have we been to the grocery store and gotten frustrated because it's so crowded or the checker is slow?  When have we been driving and gotten frustrated because the car in front of us is poking along or won't turn at the stop sign until there are no cars in sight?  When have we gotten frustrated because someone did something that we didn't agree with?  When have we gotten frustrated because we had a plan and it didn't turn out how we wanted?  I think you get what I'm trying to say.

Anyways, back to what I was saying before, I didn't just get frustrated at myself because I couldn't get things done.  I got frustrated at myself because I got frustrated.  You follow?

And that just made it worse.

I would feel terrible, guilty, and like a failure on so many levels.

But why did I get frustrated in the first place?

Because I was selfish.  I wanted to do what I wanted to do; what I had planned.


Think about it.  What sin is there that doesn't stem from being selfish?  Murder - selfish.  Envy - selfish.  Adultery - selfish.  Anger - selfish.  Laziness - selfish.  Impatience - selfish.  You get the idea.

The definition of selfish is "lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one's own personal profit or pleasure."  In other words, we are selfish because we are trying to make ourselves happy.  We are trying to benefit ourselves.

And I think one of the first signs of becoming a Christian is conviction, at least it was for me.  When I sin, I know it.  And it doesn't make me feel good.

And why do we sin in the first place?  Because we are selfish.  James 1:14-15 says, "But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.  Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown, brings forth death."

We have selfish motives; we are selfish human beings.

And when we sin, we feel bad.

So it's interesting:  We are selfish because we are trying to make ourselves happy.  But it doesn't make us happy; it makes us feel like crap because the selfishness usually leads to us doing something that we shouldn't do.  And most of the times it hurts someone else.

So, what's the way out?

I find that my way out is to die to myself.  Forget myself.  Stop thinking about myself.  Stop trying to make me happy.

And focus on others.  And being a Christian, I firmly believe that the only way to die to myself is to set my mind on the Spirit; to listen to and follow Christ who lives in me (and He lives in you).

And that's not easy.  It's a daily struggle.  And I won't always get it right.

I find, then, a paradox:  when I stop thinking about what I want to do, and instead just focus on the needs of others, that frustration that I talked about miraculously disappears.

And I'm left with feeling joyful, peaceful, loving, controlled, patient, kind-hearted, and maybe even....


What do you think?  Do you agree; disagree?  Feel free to comment!

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