I went in to tell my ten-year-old son that it was time for Lights Out and that he had to stop reading. Only he hadn’t been reading. He had been composing The List.
It had been a rough evening for him, and he had gotten in trouble for something. Which inspired The List.
“Reasons Why My Life Stinks” was written boldly at the top.
-dad gives big lectures about small things
-parents interrupt me in the middle of a sentence
-we hardly ever go fun places
-I never get time to just rest and relax
My son had 27 complaints. And some hurt more than others.
-finding passages in the Bible is annoying
-we aren’t very rich, only get like $_,000 dollars a month
And he even complained about things he used to delight in.
-games at the arcade are impossible
-movies to check out at the library aren’t that exciting
-Minecraft is starting to get boring on xbox
-nothing fun to do outside anymore
-teachers take all the fun out of art classes at school
-my cat has gone mad
When I read the list, my heart sank. If only this boy of mine knew, if only he knew how incredibly blessed he is. He has a happy family. A home. Toys and video games galore. Food. Clothing. Free time. Education. Health. And a knowledge that the God of the universe created him and loves him dearly. This kid has above and beyond everything he needs.
And yet? His perspective. In those frustrated list-writing moments, he could only see the negatives. The complaints.
And my heart felt so sad. It stung. Because he seemed so ungrateful. And as soon as I felt the sting of an ungrateful child, my thoughts turned upward. And I inwardly said, “I’m so sorry, God. I am an ungrateful child too.” I just ached for how much I’ve hurt God with an inward attitude of complaint. I was immediately convicted. Wow.
My son was waiting for a response. There was a bit of a challenge to his list. Like he was trying to lash out for the ways his life stinks!! Poor him!! Do I see his woes??
I climbed into his bed and laid down with him and put my arms around him. I just felt sad. I said, “Isaiah, I can see why all these things bother you. I’m just like you. I have so many things I complain about. But….sometimes we need to try really hard to think about the good things in our life instead of the bad. I know it’s hard.” He didn’t see that I was quietly crying. Tears were dripping out of my eyes onto his pillow. Because the Holy Spirit had convicted me and taught me something right there in my son’s bedroom. “Christi, it hurts me when you are ungrateful. You have been given above and beyond all that you could ever need. And yet? Your perspective. You complain.”
When I left my son’s room, I folded his list and tucked it into the front of my Bible. To remind myself to stop making a List. Every day. All the time. Complaints.
-I’m too busy.
-I see carpet stains.
-Our house is too small.
-There isn’t enough money.
-There isn’t enough time.
-Everyone needs something from me.
-This house is always messy.
-And I’m supposed to have a good attitude? Impossible! Major fail.
In reality, when I stop the complaints and recognize the truth, I have more blessings than I can even name. But I’ve been stuck in this place of negativity. Ingratitude.
So what’s the solution?? For me, and for any of you who find yourselves drowning in the well of feeling sorry for yourself?
I attended a marriage seminar where the speaker showed this diagram:
He said look at this image and decide which side of the box is the FRONT. Got it? Now stare at it until your mind can make a different side of the box become the FRONT….. He said that is how healthy attitudes in marriage work. You’ve got a WHOLE LOTTA complaints about your spouse. Because your spouse is an imperfect human being. But you do have the ability to shift your perspective and see the good qualities about your spouse instead of the complaints. Force your mind to see the box differently. See the marriage differently.
Heck. Yes! Light bulb moment! I knew exactly what he meant. Perspective!
Could that perspective-shift message apply to my daily life as well? So he’s saying force the narrative in my head to focus on positives? On blessings? Hmmmm….Let’s try it.
“That camping trip WORE ME OUT….But wait! Remember all that time you spent lying on the beach in the sun? Blessing!’
“Ughhhhh….So. Much. LAUNDRY….But wait! Aren’t you glad you have a family and that all of you have piles and piles of nice clothing? Blessing!”
“My husband left his dishes in the living room and his dirty clothes on the floor. Again!….But wait! Remember yesterday when he told you all the reasons he adores you and he also made you laugh? Blessing!”
“This house is so small and we have so much freaking stuff!…But wait! Aren’t you glad you have this sweet little place to call home? And that your three favorite people live here, making memories with you? Blessing!”
I know it’s POSSIBLE to have a more grateful attitude. But I ain’t there yet. I am still a work in progress, friends. I tucked The List into my Bible months ago, and I still feel like a Professional Complainer….But wait! God will continue to work on me, in His infinitely loving way, to complete the good work He has begun in me. Blessing!
Philippians 1:6 “…being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”