Thursday, January 21, 2016

Try sometimes…

The foster son and I, on Saturday, waited anxiously for his package to arrive. The weekend before, we’d together shopped for a new PlayStation 2 game. He’d saved some money. He likes new toys. He decided to use his money, therefore, for this purchase.

Upon scouring the interwebs, we discovered websites peddling used PS2 games. One particular super hero title looked awesome. So I explained how internet orders worked, since he’d never done this. We clicked “buy.” What I failed to explain, however, is that mail doesn’t always work as expected. So when 4:00 pm rolled around Saturday, I re-checked the USPS package-tracking website.

It declared that the package had been delivered…at 3:12 pm. That seemed unlikely.  At 3:12 pm he and I were sitting at the kitchen room table doing Language Arts practice, while staring out the window. Something had gone wrong.

“Sorry, little dude,” I said. “We’ll have to wait until they open again to figure out what happened.” Then came the inevitable, “But you promised!” Indeed, I had! At least, I’d told him what the website told me, that the package would arrive that day. Consolation couldn’t be had, though, for some time, until eventually we played another game we already owned.

Disappointment stinks. And not just for seven year-old foster kids with unfortunate personal histories. For instance, though I’m patient with things, having long idolized the laid-back, “It’s cool dude” ski bum style, an inner rage volcano can erupt at inconvenient times. Like if, say, I’m watching a Broncos game, and the little guy’s with me, and a Broncos player drops another easy-to-catch ball (for the third time that game!). I have loudly screamed at the screen, forcing T to respond, “They can’t hear you, Shane. It’ll be fine. Bummer; next time.”

By the way, that phrase- “Bummer; next time”- is one we’ve taught for dealing with frustrations. There’s something weirdly gratifying and deeply humbling about a child applying lessons to you messing up! Because, let’s be fair, that reaction I just described was messing up. An adult should keep his attitude in check while watching sports with a growing boy! Disappointment happens. Our responses to disappointment, however, aren’t written in stone. We make choices.

At least, we should make choices. Oftentimes, though, our rage volcanoes, our inner anxieties, our unhealed memories make them for us. We hear news we don’t like, or understand, and rather than calmly investigate or pray, we lash out. We post rash Facebook comments. We look for the nearest Muslim to blame. We stop talking to one another.

By contrast, here’s how Philippians 4:4 suggests we choose- “Rejoice in the Lord. Always. I’ll say it again, Rejoice.” That’s the ongoing response to life Paul counsels; the attitude upon waking and sleeping; the reaction to discoveries and disappointments- rejoicing in God, this God in whom we live and move and have our being, and will for eternity. Life can dishearten. God remains faithful. Therefore, rejoice.

I mention that because I find that my inappropriate reactions to disappointment typically arise because I’ve let my perspective get out of balance. Maybe I’m tired, or not praying enough, or have let secondary loves (like sports) replace primary loves (like being a good example to my foster son). In those cases, choices are being made for me, or I’m choosing based on frustration and selfishness, not hope and love. When we step back, however, our faith teaches that we’re held in a forever embrace by the One who sent Love to die and then live again eternally so that we might be always free…free from sin, from fear, from disappointment. In other words, we have reason not simply to feel joy occasionally. We can rejoice in the Lord, always.

So, this week, ponder that spot of resentment that clouds your heart. Reflect on that person who raises your hackles the moment s/he comes into view. Relive that unredeemed memory that remains painful. Then pray, “God, can I- instead- rejoice in you?” I’m not promising it’ll make everything perfect immediately. But the Lord is faithful. And it’s a fair prayer, in any case. Christ died for you. Rejoice.

Then do it again. Rejoice.

Grace and Peace,
Read more!