Perspective. Or How I’m Learning Not to Sweat the Small Stuff

Posted on October 4, 2011 by

Something happens to our thinking when life is relatively easy for a relatively long period of time. Our perception of what is a hard thing slowly widens to include just about everything. We reach a place where being stuck in traffic, late for a meeting, or the mess of potty training takes on monumental importance. It doesn’t take as much to raise our blood pressure and get us on a soapbox of righteous indignation over what is really nothing at all. A flat tire ceases to be a minor inconvenience that could happen to anyone and is suddenly characterized as the trying of our faith, designed to work patience.

I had a moment several months ago when I  faced the superficiality of my thinking. It was a Sunday morning, and we were running late for church, which was particularly bothersome to me. There was a tension between my husband and me over some banal triviality. It was not a good morning. As we rode to church (in silence so thick you could cut it with a knife), I was suddenly aware of the pettiness of my emotions. Not so much the emotions themselves, but the credence I was giving to them. Believing that I was right in my frustration, I tried to push away the guilt for being so stupid. Until it occurred to me that I was making into a mountain what barely even qualified as a molehill.

I once heard a preacher talk about the importance of a child’s formative years using the analogy of a newly planted tree. Have you ever grown a tree, or noticed that when young trees are planted, they are frequently surrounded and supported on all sides by stakes and wires to ensure that they grow up straight and not twisted? I often viewed myself as the tree without the supporting stakes. Before the first decade of my life was complete, I’d experienced motherlessness, lived through a theft of innocence that I will not recount here, and learned at a very early age the importance of being able to cope with my emotions on my own. Not because my family was evil or uncaring, but because everyone was so consumed with handling their own feelings about the chaos, no one took notice of how any of it was affecting me. Meeting the needs of the day was the priority. Every day. I’m sure I’m not alone in my experience, as this notion of exploring, analyzing, and validating our feelings is a relatively new phenomenon of American life, many times to our detriment.

On the way to church, as I was pulled from my memories and silence by the playful interaction of my children in the car, it occurred to me that I have, by the grace of God come through far worse than the inconvenience of running late, or forgetting my lip gloss, and whatever the heck it was my husband said that rubbed my the wrong way. These are the things that make up life. The common, everyday moments that combine to paint the picture of life in a family filled with people, their personalities. All the things that make life full and interesting.

As a young child and teenager, I never dreamed of being rich, or famous, a starlet, or beautiful. All I ever wanted was to experience a solid, peaceful family life. For me. For any children I was blessed to birth. I have that. I have no reason to whine or complain. Life is often hectic in our house. Siblings spat, toddlers tantrum, and preschoolers sneak in the cookie jar. Husbands forget to tell you that they will be late for dinner, and the laundry seems like a never ending challenge. But that’s small stuff. My life is many things, but at least it’s never boring. I used to know the difference between hard things and the small stuff.  I was once so thankful just to have a family that I took great pleasure in the things that now just seem to make my day longer and my work load heavier.

I think this is what happens when life is going pretty well for a good stretch of time. We become masters at sweating the small stuff. We magnify minutiae, making it big so we can entertain our human love of complaint and cries of woe is me. We must fight against chronic discontentment, and it’s a never ending battle. It’s also nothing new. Imagine living as the children of Israel following their glorious exodus. Being led on their journey by the very presence of God, having Him rain food from heaven, food unlike any they’d ever seen before, witnessing the impossible day after day And still, they were unable to be content. After entering the promised land, they enjoyed wealth they did not work for and God Himself was their king. Still they looked around them and decided they wanted a lesser king, just to be like the surrounding nations. Discontent. How could a people grow dissatisfied with a life of the miraculous? How could they become so callous that they actually entertained the idea of returning to slavery?

It sounds incredible to us as we read with the benefit of hindsight, but we are no different. Discontent. It’s why we find reasons to complain even as we enjoy a level of prosperity that most of the world can only dream of. Even for those of who struggle financially, we cannot imagine a home with mud floors, no running water, and no electricity, which is the way much of the world lives to one degree or another. And still we grasp for that elusive cure that will free us from the commonness of lives that we should be grateful for. Even if, like me, you experienced some trauma or dysfunction that left you fairly screwed up, isn’t it a testament to God’s grace  that somehow, against the odds,  we salvaged a life worth living when others, enduring far less, have found themselves unable to live even a stable life, let alone one of peace or joy?

Being a homemaker is big job, but most days it feels harder than it is. Still, I don’t know that I’ll ever turn cartwheels for the opportunity to clean up the contents of a regurgitated meal when multiple children are battling a case of the stomach flu.

For those of us who’ve taken upon ourselves the awesome responsibility of seeing that our children get the best possible education, the challenges may seem never ending. But given the scores of women with empty arms longing for just one child to care for, I choose my life. Warts and all. While I’m often tired, often sleepy, and often long for a trip to bathroom by myself, these aren’t hard things. Not really. Inconvenient, maybe. But I’ve done hard, and this ain’t it.

Just a reminder for myself- don’t sweat the small stuff. Life is short. Enjoy it when you can.

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-39

To the ones who have taken life’s hardest punches, lived to tell the tale, and walk through life with heads held high and grateful hearts.

Posted in: Religion