A recent discussion on the NFP board got me thinking about how one's expectations in life can make all the difference in how a person reacts to trials and unexpected difficulties. It can mean the difference between a good attitude and a bad attitude.
I remember various occasions as a child when I thought we were going to be eating at one place, and it turned out I was either mistaken or there was a change of plans, and I would get so incredibly angry and upset...about food...about the fact that we were going out to eat and I could pick anything on the menu I wanted and a cook would make it and a waiter would bring it to us, and there would likely be more than enough to fill me up. Yeah.
It wasn't really the place that mattered all that much, it was that I was expecting something else. And as soon as I heard mention of the possibility of going to a certain place, in a way I felt I was owed that place, and no other place, and not going there meant I was being severely slighted. I should have seen dining out anywhere at all for what it was...a luxury that we are blessed with in this country, and not an entitlement. Of course, I was a child then, but I still have the tendency to react the same way.
A much bigger trial, though, has helped me to see this and to try to readjust my expectations and my understanding of things as blessings, gifts, and bonuses rather than entitlements.
I certainly didn't ever consciously think of children as something I deserved or was owed, BUT I did take it for granted that, as is normal (what a gracious and loving God we have), a couple who enjoys the marital embrace would have a baby.
But, that hasn't happened for us, and this brings me to a choice. Do I look at children as a right? Something I am owed? Or do I see them as a gift, and a gift that there is nothing I can do to deserve?
I chose the latter option. I now see a child as a true gift, a blessing, and something that, no matter how easily it may come for others, is not something I am entitled to, and is therefore not something that I should feel slighted for not receiving. This is, I think, the only way I'm able to stay positive. If I insisted that a child was a necessity, a right, I know I would be extremely angry at God for not giving me my due, or possibly even (God forbid) angry at my husband, or at the Church for (rightly) teaching against IVF, or at any number of people or things, when at the heart of it the problem would be my attitude, which would be a result of the idea that children are an entitlement.
Does this make our struggles in life any easier? Not necessarily. They still hurt, they still cause suffering...if they didn't, we wouldn't call them crosses. A sacrifice without pain is not much of a sacrifice. But I do think mentally and attitude-wise it helps fight bitterness and anger, because it helps us see the truth of the matter more clearly - what we long for is often not an entitlement, but a gift. It helps us to endure the pain and know that God has not forgotton to give us anything at all, and His grace will get us through.
Humbly offering up our suffering in life as a sacrifice to God brings grace. Grace frequently brings clarity. Therefore, it is often in struggles that we are able to recognize and more perfectly conform to reality. YES it's hard, and of course recognizing the ideal doesn't mean we will meet that ideal right now or even in the long run, but if we don't recognize or acknowledge it, we can't even begin to try to meet it.
Lord, grant me the grace to humbly accept and embrace the cross I've been given. Through this cross, help me to recognize your gifts for what they are, and to fight the temptation to harbor a sense of entitlement over the things I desire.
God whispers to us in our pleasures,
speaks to us in our conscience,
but shouts in our pains;
It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.