Since writing my last post I have been even more aware of my choices and responses in my day to day living. When things that normally unnerve me stare me in the face, instead of imploring God for a break, I am praising Him for the next steps and His plan. I am trying really hard to stay focused on the finish line and not the 300 metre incline I am running up and even though it is not a walk in the park, because it isn’t, I am feeling a little more victorious every day. It takes conscious effort to think differently I must admit and it takes discipline too, to make the right choices and not to give in to the easy, self-indulgent ones.
I look at myself 17 years ago, when we first tied the knot, in the days when I was so naive and idealistic. I was newly married and felt I had a handle on life in the best possible way. I look at the young girl and wish I had got it a little sooner. I thought I was choosing peace and good thinking when 99% of the time I was worrying and stressing about all the things that were not going my way. I was horrified that my marriage was so much work and even more surprised that the fairy tale was not quite so attainable as I had hoped.
Real life was hard work and I proceeded to make it even more complicated. I was childish and immature and no-one can hold that against me at the young age of 21 but with that came a lot of selfish and insolent behaviour. I wanted things my way (well who of us actually don’t?) but I wasn’t stopping to really understand what it was God wanted or what would work better me. I would throw my little hissy fits when I was upset and frustrated and the only outcome was discontentment.
I needed to choose differently – at times I did but so many times I got it so completely wrong.
Looking back now I can see how much more I could have let go of the worrying, because it changed absolutely nothing and I could have instead just enjoyed the moment we were in – our new marriage, finishing my degree, our first washing machine and our togetherness on a second hand pink couch that when you sat down you ended up with a spring in your left butt cheek.
Yes, we needed to find solutions to the problems we faced and as per usual it was mainly about getting the bills paid – the same story for most of us but when we worry we lose out on so many of our precious moments. We let go of our most precious commodity – time – and we waste it on anxiousness.
That anxiousness increases our sensitivity and levels of patience, which means we become more prone to over reacting to situations or snapping a response to someone and then of course that results in arguments, offense and fighting. And what are most of our fights about? Absolute nonsense – we end up fighting about how badly the dishwasher is stacked, whose turn is to do the dishes, the fact that the other person said something in the wrong tone, someone didn’t put the seat down, someone hasn’t picked their towel up off of the floor or any other trigger event that in the greater scheme of things really won’t change the world as we know it.
It all boils down to your choice in that split second, because it’s that split second that could change it all. Right then your deliberate choice to react or respond changes everything. You choose not to make a sarcastic comment about the dishes that still have not been done or you choose not to over react to the snippy response to your question. It could be a choice that was nothing to do with dishes or a sarcastic comment but something far greater that could change your life exponentially.
Choice is ours – we cannot blame any of our choices on anyone else or on any circumstance. We have to be prepared to take complete responsibility for our choices – every one of them. Each one of them will come with their own set of consequences, happy endings or both.
I realised about 7 years into our marriage that I was so tired of arguing with Rob over unwashed dishes. Every time we argued about the lack of soap suds and the washing practice commonly known to all kitchen owners, we lost precious time as a couple and as a family. Did the sink full of dishes really make such a difference to our lives, was it really worth the drama?
That was a good day – for all of us – when I decided that it would no longer be important to me. That if Rob did do the dishes it would just be a bonus and that I would choose not to get the gloves out over it. When I think of it now I have to smile, as the very last thing I ever ask Rob to do now is dishes, they just get done without any fuss or request – we just make it happen, we always have clean dishes and all without any drama. So by letting this go and deliberately choosing peace instead I could enjoy my husband, have more enjoyable moments with him and we are yet to run out of clean dishes.
Why shouldn’t we be able to apply that type of response to all the situations in our lives? Choice is given to us every waking moment of our lives – how can we make sure we are going to make the right ones?
Romans 12:2 (NIV) 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Being aware of our choices and reactions is a good start and staying focused in the right things. What are you filling your mind with on a daily basis? If you are filling it with negative words and images you cannot expect to be able to easily switch to a very positive space. Making positive deliberate choices also means choosing to train out thinking by eliminating the ingredients that result in fearful, critical and negative thinking.
For me it means turning off the TV when a show comes on that I know is not in line with my beliefs or is just complete rubbish, it means reading books that inspire, encourage and lift me up, listening to positive people – friendships that are strong and encouraging and I also download podcasts from that inspire me and listen to them while I work.
Secondly you have to become disciplined – call it a ‘thought diet’. Your thinking and your beliefs is what ultimately drives your behaviour and choices. If you are going downhill fast with negative thoughts about yourself, your future and those around you, you have to stop right there, take it captive and deliberately reframe. One negative thought can cause chronic destruction if it’s left to run its’ course. Like a small spark in a forest, all it takes is a gentle wind and before you know it you have a raging fire on your hands and by then the damage is done.
Make choice part of your conscious thinking, make it part of your goal setting for this year, I know I am. Start small, with the achievable – like choosing not to get upset about the unwashed dishes for example or whatever your trigger may be.
Galatians 6:7-8 7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.
When faced with a reactive situation step back and think about the reaction to your response. Think about what you would like to achieve and what consequences you are prepared to deal with based on your choice.
Reframe your thinking, start being a little more strategic about your life and the results you want to see. Choice is so powerful. Start thinking deliberately about it. It can change everything – it can lead to your happiness and your purpose…it’s all up to you.
Choose to choose deliberately starting today.
What are your new choices going to be?
Be blessed, Michelle
Images: Black And Yellow Concrete Barriers by Shi Yali.jpg freedigitalphotos.net ; Clock Hands by Danilin.jpg freedigitalphotos.net; Dirty Dishes by vegadsl.jpg freedigitalphotos.net; Banana Skin by Chris Sharp.jpg freedigitalphotos.net;