As a class walked behind their teacher into the building at the end of recess, a couple of kids in line pulled frantically at my coat. “Our friend is hiding behind that post,” they said, pointing. “She’s crying.”
The child seemed almost hysterical with grief. When she finally calmed down enough to get some words out, she said that her little brother had made fun of her on the bus that morning, and just now, as far as I could catch what she was saying, the other kids playing kickball wouldn’t allow a “do-over” and let her replace a bad kick with a better one. “This is the worst day of my life!” she wailed.
I happened to know that just a day earlier, she had been delightedly doing Halloween crafts during the Harvest Festival, and she admitted that she had a bucket of candy waiting for her at home after her night of trick-or-treating. I tried to remind her of the good things that were also part of her week. I told her about the friends waiting for her in class who had been very concerned about her and would play with her the next recess. It worked for a minute, and then the wailing began again.
Isn’t that the way life goes sometimes? The current trouble seems to overshadow everything else. Perspective gets tossed in the wind, like so many autumn leaves. For me, a broken water heater and disturbed pipes that sent debris to my kitchen sink, stubbornly clogging it, and a miserable, disappointing day spent throwing up instead of eating a delicious (and rather expensive!) brunch with my college freshman on Mom’s Day (on my birthday weekend, no less!), made me struggle to regain a little perspective this week, too. Sometimes, like my little playground friend, we want to sulk and refuse to acknowledge any bright side. Like picking a scab, it can feel kind of satisfying to feel a little sorry for ourselves.
But, we do that at what cost? Perhaps part of the answer is in the beautiful card my thoughtful sister sent to me on my birthday: “Life is a Story you Write as You Go,” it said. Just like in kickball, there aren’t any do-overs to life, no disrespect intended to my friends who believe in reincarnation. I believe we get only one life. So, how do we spend that one life? Do we spend it focused on the downside? There’s always a downside. When we are stuck for awhile, eyes fixed on the clogged sink and the missed or blown opportunities, how do we regain perspective? How do you regain perspective?
When I realize I’m a little stuck, I often feel like a pet that’s been thrown into a pool. I “doggie-paddle” as quickly as possible to the surface, scrambling for a breath of gratitude. I frantically try to remember the good things, like the sinks that aren’t clogged, like the fact that I live with my husband in our own house, with a yard and a view of Puget Sound. I remember the people I saw in Thailand who live under a bridge and bathe in filthy water. It’s usually not too long before I realize that I am breathing prayers of thanks to God, for my clogged sinks, and for the many, simple gifts that are a small part of each day–even a day spent throwing up. Like an amazing sunrise, a mild day in November, a favorite scarf, a smile from a stranger.
A verse from Hebrews not only puts things back in perspective for me, but it helps me realize the importance of being grateful. Hebrews 12:28 says, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe. . . .” No matter what else is going on in our lives, no matter what can never be made right on this side of Heaven, we can always be certain that God has given us an eternal, unshakeable kingdom through his Son, Jesus, should we choose to accept it. And not only that, having a thankful attitude helps us to actually, “acceptably,” worship God.
So, how do you regain perspective, or an attitude of gratitude when it’s really hard to feel thankful? Help us all out as we approach Thanksgiving by leaving an idea in the comments!
P.S. Just to set the record straight, I ineptly scheduled last Sunday’s post (Birthday Blessings) for the wrong day. It came out on Friday, Nov. 1st, announcing that my birthday was that day. It’s not. It’s the 3rd. Sorry for the confusion, faithful readers!