Wednesday, January 30, 2013

How to Handle a Good Morning

Photo by Nelso47

Um...It was a good morning.

No, seriously, I mean it!  Things went smoothly.  No significant fights over getting ready, no hatred spewed, no ugliness at all.

If you don't know me and my life, that might not sound like such a big deal.  But if you know me, you know what a rare jewel a good school morning is.

I used to handle such things horribly, and even now I usually don't handle those jewels as well as I should, but I want today to be different.  I hope you'll come along as I work my way through this, and maybe you'll be blessed, too.

What's that I said?  I don't usually handle God's good gifts well?  Why would that be?

It's simple, really.  In the past (and to a lesser extent, even now), I have tended to receive good mornings (or any rare blessing) the way a pre-linguistic Helen Keller received things from her caregivers.

Snatch.  Gnaw.  Consume.  Figure out how to make sure you get more.  Try to get control over those who give it.  Hold it tightly.  Give no thought to humble gratitude...but be prepared to dish out severe punishment if more good stuff isn't immediately forthcoming.  This good thing is a little taste of life, and you need need control over it...desperately.

Ironically, the snatching, grasping, desperately clawing recipient gets no real, lasting joy from the gift.  The most she can settle for is an uneasy sense of triumph with no assurance of future blessings at all.

Does any of this sound familiar?  I admit, my imagery was rather stark. No one who has seen "The Miracle Worker" can ever forget the intense, knock-down, drag-out fight scene between Helen and Anne Sullivan.  We don't want to see ourselves in Helen, and most likely we've never behaved exactly as she did (at least not since our tantruming toddler days). But look at my description again.  At its core, at least to some degree, does the above describe how you receive God's blessings?  No?  Walk a little further with me, and you may begin to recognize it a little better.  Even if, like me, the worst of these attitudes is behind you, you might still see hints of them trying to rise up again.  So please indulge the following question:

When you've received a rare blessing... something you desperately desire but have to do without most of the time... do you pray afterwards?  If so, how do you pray afterwards?

Perhaps you don't pray.  Why would that be?

  •  Perhaps it's because you already got what you wanted, so what is there to pray about, right?  (Translation:  Prayer isn't about a loving relationship with God, it's about controlling God, getting what you want out of Him.  Therefore it's pointless to pray if you've got "it" already.  To go back to our example above, Helen has been handed enough cake to satisfy her sweet tooth, and once she's gobbled it, she's ready to go play.  The giver is forgotten until something else is needed.)  I've been guilty of this, for sure. 
  • Or perhaps it's because you see God as an unpredictably explosive despot, who is best handled by tiptoeing around Him.  Like an abused child, you just want to make sure you keep under His radar, so that maybe He won't hurt you.  I used to see God that way.  It's far from the truth about Him, and I pray that He will lovingly remove such misconceptions from your heart if they're there.

Perhaps you pray, but with a heart that's in the wrong place.

  • Perhaps you pray as if you're God's teacher, trying to use Behavior Modification techniques on Him.  "See now, God, how this went?  You finally got it right.  This is how it's supposed to go, and I expect it from now on."  You dish out what you call "praise" not from a humble heart of gratitude, but as an attempt to manipulate and control God.  You see Him as a praise-hungry, grasping soul Himself.  He needs strokes from you, and you need (whatever it is) from Him.  So you work out a trade.  There's nothing even approximating love or respect here.  I know, because I've been there.
  • Perhaps you pray fearfully, as one who thinks the gift could be snatched away at any time.  Every "good morning" seems to you like a chance that things could go well from now on, and in fact, they should go well from now on...but God might just play the Grinch and take it all away.  I know this reality far too well.  Just over a week ago, I actually corresponded with a teacher who was gushing over how well things had gone in first period...and almost immediately after responding to that email, I got a call from another teacher telling me that my son had done the worst of all the awful things he's ever done in school.  Disciplinary actions would have to be stronger.  Details would have to go in his permanent record.  I would have to meet with deans and school psychologists yet again.  Medication consults would have to be scheduled.  The soon after a hopeful email that made my heart seemed cruel and capricious indeed.  If it had happened a few years ago, that's exactly how I would have seen it.  And I still find little hints of that attitude popping up now and then.

Can you see how such attitudes would completely ruin whatever we received?

So how should you and I handle God's good gifts?

  • Recognize the Giver, and receive His gifts accordingly.
    • He is our loving, perfect Heavenly Father who does all things well.  Everything He sends to His children is love.  Love Him in return!
    • He is the Heavenly Gardener who sends both sunshine and rain, at the right times and the right quantities (even though they might not seem right to me at the time).  Trust Him.
    • He's the Great Physician.  He sees how sin has broken us, and He knows how to set the bones so they'll grow straight and strong again.  If the setting process is painful, it's still done in love.  Submit to His care.

  • Recognize the gift, and receive it accordingly.
    • It is given as a secondary gift.  The primary gift that God gives is Himself.  He is the greatest good.  And He is always there for His children, even when His gifts are not obviously given. So receive each gift as a secondary thing.  Treasure it...but treasure Him more.
    • It is given for a particular time.  It will probably not last forever, but it will last as long as God deems best. Do not fear that it will be taken away prematurely.  It may well be taken away before you'd like it to be, but His timing is perfect.  So enjoy the gift thoroughly, even as you hold it loosely.  
    • It is an act of His love, not a test of His love.  The proof of His love came at Calvary, when He gave infinitely above and beyond all reasonable doubt of His love.  He gave His life to purchase eternity for you!  (Imagine if your own children doubted your love between every meal, viewed each mealtime as a test of your love, received each meal as proof.  Of course you would be terribly grieved by that kind of distrust.  And if your love should be obvious to your children, shouldn't God's love be obvious to His children? You can trust the love of the one who died for you (See Rom 8:32).

  • Recognize the recipients of the gift.  Yes, I said recipients - plural.  Let's go back to my pleasant morning as an example.  It was a gift to me, of course, but it was also a gift to the child in question, his father, his siblings, his teachers, his classmates, and anyone else who could benefit from the good start we all enjoyed.  In fact, the recipients include YOU, the reader of this blog.  This entry wouldn't have happened today without the good morning that made me think these things through.  Only God is wise enough to weave together all of the threads of our lives in ways that make everything work out for the good of everyone who loves Him.  When you realize how many people are involved, it's easier to accept the fact that "The Good" is far more complex than you or I can comprehend.  Expand your view beyond yourself, and then trust God to make it all work out the way it should.

"Thank You, Lord, for this morning.  I know it came from Your loving hand, but I also know that the hard mornings also come from Your loving hand.  I trust You with all of it.  Thank You for the good that You plan to bring out of it all, not just for me, but for all those who are touched by our family, directly or indirectly.  I don't know if the phone is about to ring with bad news, or if things will seemingly "go wrong" in some other way...or if this wonderful peacefulness will last for a good long while.  Whatever you place in my hands, I willingly receive.  And whatever you take from my hands, I willingly relinquish.  In the Name of the One who died for me, Amen!"

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