Updated: Jul 24, 2020
I heard someone talking on the radio the other day about being grateful, living a grateful life. They were talking about some study that basically said that kids who are raised with an attitude of gratefulness have more fulfilled lives. They are generally happier, they contribute more to society, they have a positive disposition about life. Of course all of that makes sense. If you are grateful for what you have instead of worrying or anxious about what you don't have then you are more likely to feel satisfied with life, obviously. Now I'm going to let you know right now I OFTEN find myself in a place of ungratefulness. It is a problem that I continue to struggle with daily and I have to remind myself daily, in fact several times a day to give this back to God, give that back to God. Hearing about this study, it got me thinking about something that I've been noticing at my sons school. My son, Arthur, goes to special ed preschool. Every morning when the kids get dropped off, they have the child's picture taped to the board. Now the child is supposed to grab their photo and go put it on the "Mood Meter" which has several moods including Happy, Sad, Calm, Excited, Angry. So for several days in a row I watched my child pick out his photo and go place into onto "calm." Watching this happen day after day got me to really thinking about a few things. For starters, how is it that Arthur wakes up and the emotion that he would describe himself as feeling is "calm". How does that happen?
I've come up with a couple of reasons for why Arthur may feel "calm" first thing in the morning. For one (obviously) he has just woken up and started getting going. His body is still feeling slow, calm. Secondly, and I think more importantly, I believe that in our dreams we spend time with our heavenly Father. It makes sense to me so deeply. We all need sleep, all creatures sleep. Atheists and Christians alike need sleep, and I believe it is because God wants to spend this time speaking to our souls and having real communion with us. Additionally, you don't generally remember what you dreamed, save for maybe a few sporadic details here and there. I think again, that is because that time is being spent with the Lord, talking to and witnessing to your soul. I think Children need more sleep than adults because the Lord wants to spend more time with his little children. I also think about how some people have fantastic and horrible nightmares. I believe it is because you allow the devil a chance to speak with you in your waking life and don't cast him away before you sleep, and so he comes creeping into that time that is set aside for you and the Lord. So basically, I believe Arthur feels "calm" in the morning because he has just woken from spending time with the Lord.
When I wake up in the morning I have also just spent a full night (or a few sporadic hours, let's be honest, I'm a mom) sleeping and spending time with my Lord. I should also feel calm in the mornings. That really stuck to me. I should also feel calm in the mornings.
Can I just add right here, for you grow adults with children or who have children in your lives, watch them and learn from them. God gave us children, so that we could learn how to live calm, peaceful and grateful lives. He gave us children so that he could teach us to be less materialistic and worldly, and closer to Christs heart. It made me start to wonder, how do I actually feel when I wake up in the mornings. You know what I realized? Most mornings, when I wake up, I don't feel calm. I feel anxious. I feel angry. I feel ungrateful.
This realization kind of smacked me in the face. What the hell? Where is that coming from? I have so many things in my life to feel grateful for, the least of which is I live a free life in a country where I have the ability to wake up in the morning in a comfy bed, next to my loving family, running water for my morning hygiene, and food to make breakfast. I have a good job to get up and go to every morning, I am able to worship my Lord freely and openly without fear of persecution. I have family, I am loved. Why the hell would I feel anxious, angry, ungrateful? My child is waking up every morning feeling calm, refreshed, filled with the Lord, anticipating a new day, looking forward to playing, NOT WORRYING! NOT ANXIOUS! He isn't wondering what will be for breakfast (but I am), he isn't wondering if the internet will be working today or not (but I am), he isn't concerned about if his day is going to be good or bad (you get my point).
Why is it that Arthur, or any child for that matter, can wake up each day and not worry, feel anxious, feel nauseous, feel worry, feel angry. Why is it they can wake up calm and joy filled, when I am waking up angry and frustrated.
Expectations are one of those things we have from birth until death, in many different capacities.
We have expectations on other people. As an infant, when you cry, you expect someone to respond and meet your needs. When you get to be a child you expect to have a safe home. You expect your parents to feed you. You expect your parents to clothe and care for you. As you get older you expect your spouse to do their part in caring for children or running the household. You expect your child's teacher to show up to work today and care for your child. You expect people to keep appointments you have set with them.
We also have expectations of things in our lives. I expect to go to my car and turn the key, to find that it starts every morning. I expect my shoes to be where I left them, by the door. I expect my furnace to continue heating my home and my internet to be on.
We have expectations on ourselves as well. I expect myself to stick to my diet, which I have committed to. I expect myself to not waste money frivolously, so that I can pay my bills. I expect to wake up in the morning and stand up and get ready for the day because my body is strong and well and is continuing to do what it is supposed to do.
Having expectations is such a basic part of being human, which is why we can get so disappointed, angry, frustrated, depressed (etc) when expectations do not get met.
Getting let down by our own human expectations is also such a basic part of being human, but it is one of those things we humans don't really like to address. Because I expect my plumber to show up at 12 when he said he would, I allow myself to be angry when he doesn't show up until 2 pm. Because I expect my furnace to keep working, I get frustrated when it gives out and I have to find a solution. Because I expect my body to continue to work the way it always has, I get depressed when I start having health issues and find my body is failing me.
You're thinking at me "Michelle, the reason that grown ass adults have those feelings is because they are grown and they have responsibilities, where as kids don't have that."
Let me first say, that is completely untrue. Children also have expectations being placed on them regularly. We expect them to sit still at the dinner table, say please and thank you, don't forget to wash your hands! We expect them to go to school, do their homework, play kindly and cooperatively with their friends. Any parent of a special needs child will tell you, the expectations for our children start, almost from birth. We expect them to meet certain "mile markers". They are supposed to be walking by a certain age, talking by a certain age. They are even supposed to be smiling, SMILING, by a certain age. If they don't meet these expectations we call them delayed and start sending them to therapy to help them catch up.
All of this to say, Christ doesn't lay these human expectations on us. We do it to ourselves. Christ has asked only a few things of me in this life, and here they are:
1. Love the God almighty with all your heart, soul, and mind. (Matthew 22:37 and 38)
2. Love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:39)
3. Make disciples of all nations. (Matthew 28: 19 and 20)
4. Care for widows and orphans (James 1:27)
If I am doing these few things that Christ has asked of me in my life, he is going to take care of the rest. I don't need to worry, because Christ has me! I can be childlike in my disposition, because Christ is already handling the situation before it arises!
Again, you're thinking "I can't just not worry about situations as they arise, Michelle. I'm a responsible grown person and if I don't worry about it no one will." That's nice! Here is what my Lord has to say on the matter:
Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?
God is my care taker. Even when I wake up worrying, God is in control. He is taking care of me every day, in ways that I never could care for myself. He doesn't want me to wake up anxious, because just as he takes care of the the birds, and just as I take care of my children, God is taking care of ME. I don't need to worry, I don't need to be anxious. What God wants for me is to be filled, and wake up calm, not worrying, JOYFUL.
1 Corinthians 14:20
Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.
In other words Christ expects of me that I need to THINK as an adult, making responsible and adult decisions, but in regard to EVIL in the world, I should be like a child, innocent, trusting, hopeful. Christ does not want me waking up angry because of the expectations that have failed me in my life. He wants me to wake up JOY FILLED, because he has filled my heart and my home in ways that I never could have on my own.
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea."
Children are the greatest in God's kingdom, because they are joyful. They are joyful, because they are grateful. They have nothing for themselves and nothing to give, and yet they know they are loved. They can do nothing for themselves and yet they know they are cared for. They would not survive without their parents, and yet they don't worry, they trust, they love, they hope. Children are God's gift to humanity because he wants us to remember what it was like to be a child, feel joy over nothing, feel comfort and security without reason, and not worry about tomorrow, or today, or what is going to happen in the future or what is going to happen in the present. We cannot possibly know what will happen. This morning, when you woke up, this may have been the last time you ever would wake up. But children don't worry about that, because their lives are joy filled. God wants all of us humans to experience that same undying, unconditional, and completely irrational joy and peace.
Well so what's the point? The point brothers and sisters, is that our expectations let us down, that is part of being human, but it doesn't have to be. Our expectations let us down, because we are putting our hope and trust in things of this world. When I wake up in the morning to find my body hasn't failed me, I should praise God in that. When I get in my car and it turns over, I should thank God. When my repairman shows up to fix my furnace, I should praise God for that too!
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
I have read this verse 100 times, and never really understood what is means. I don't about the rest of you, but I've never sat down and prayed "Lord, please break my spirit, allow mourning in my life, make me meek, allow hunger and thirst in my life, put me in situations where I have to be the peacemaker, allow me to be persecuted because of you." Believe it or not, these aren't really things I've hoped for in my life and aren't the things I pray for daily. I pray for good health for myself and my family, I pray for comfort, I pray for happiness. So why then would I pray for any of these things in my life and my children's lives? Why would I hope for this?
I'll tell you brothers and sisters, those broken spirited individuals have the kingdom of heaven taking care of them. The thirsty, the poor, the broken, the mourning, the lost, the weak, they have the kingdom of heaven taking care of them! When we are weak Christ draws close to us. When we are scared and unsure Christ is nearest to us. Do I want to watch my body give up on me? NO! But I want to trust that Christ has a plan and I want him to draw close to me. When I put my expectations on Christ, instead of on others, myself, my things, Christ CANNOT fail me!