One of the difficult decisions of our recent trip to Florida and the Magic Kingdom was what to do with our 18-month old son. He's at that challenging age where he's completely mobile and inquisitive, but not smart enough or old enough to really know better. After much consideration, we decided to leave him with my folks. In Montana. This meant a 5 and 1/2 hour drive before and after the trip for a drop off and pick up.
On Sunday, I was driving back from Montana with our son, and along the way I found myself growing increasingly angry. For starters, some kind of construction activity on Snoqualmie Pass had added an hour to my trip. At one point, traffic had sat completely motionless for 15 minutes. The worst part for me was that all along this stretch, I never did see a single sign of active construction. It was a traffic jam created completely by, well, traffic.
Next off, Luke decided that he didn't want to sleep. Even though it was 10 PM and he was very tired, he kept shaking himself awake. Was he afraid that if he drifted off to sleep I would leave him somewhere again? I don't know. So he's fussy, and then it starts to rain. Not Washington-gentle-mist kind of rain. More like South Pacific-drops-as-large-as-acorns sheet rain. And all of this begins happening as I round the I-5 bend near the Tacoma Dome, which all you north-westerners know is a notoriously busy and backed up section of road.
So there I was- tired of driving, suffering from a 3-hour jet-lag that told me it was 1Am, trying to comfort a crying baby by myself in a pouring rainstorm with traffic all around me moving at 30 miles an hour. And how did I handle this? I got angry, and I found myself wanting to blame others; even irrationally. I wanted to blame my parents for not driving the whole way. I wanted to blame my wife for not going instead of me. I wanted to blame the rain, the other drivers, and even my 18-month old for not being smart enough to see that Daddy was about to blow so he should just pipe down.
Amidst all of this frustration came a quiet moment of clarity. I would like to say that God spoke to me, but I'm just not sure- it could have been my own spirit. But a still voice whispered, "Remember, you chose this. This was the plan that you chose." This thought powerfully calmed the raging storm of my soul. When I regained the perspective that the current circumstances, though out of my control, were circumstances that I had willingly put myself into, I had renewed peace and strength to face them.
I'm writing this today because of how often I think this happens for all of us. Life gets tough, we get angry, and the blaming begins. In some ways, it's human nature to look for ways to blame others for the problems we face. But I wonder if we step back enough and say to ourselves, "I chose this." Certainly, we didn't choose the unexpected problems or trouble, but in most of our challenges I think we can take ownership of choices we made to put ourselves in this position.
So, your spouse may be angry and hurtful at times, but remember you chose to love for better or for worse. Now may just be a time of worse. A boss may have unrealistic expectations or be at times difficult to work with, but when you accepted the job you accepted those risks as well. Your child might be mean and disrespectful, but when you chose to become a parent, you willingly invited another free-willed being into your home.
I think you see what I'm saying here. If we can willingly say to ourselves, "I chose this", we hold onto a perspective that gives us the ability to face the challenge with new strength. And rather than blaming, we are enabled to go to God and see His help. When we blame, we tend not to pray because the fault lies with someone else. Or we pray for them- that God will change them, change the weather, change our circumstances: we ask him to change everything except ourselves.When we look at our own choices, we can ask a gracious Father to give us the courage to face what needs to be faced with the kind of character He loves to give His children.
So when the magic of a marriage, a job, a task, or a trip to Disney World fades, look for an opportunity to embrace your role in choosing. Rather than blaming, and giving in to anger, find ways to surrender to God and invite His help into your situation. Say to yourself, "I chose this" and to God, "Now help me to see it through." And He will help you.
The rain will always fall, but you choose the kind of trip you will take through the storm.