Thursday, November 14, 2013

Chapter 1: Victim of Circumstances (Excerpt from The Thankful Principle)

In the spring of 2004, a typical weekday morning took an unpleasant, dramatic turn.  I was heading to my teaching job at a local community college and planning on dropping my fifteen-year-old daughter, Danielle, off at our local high school.  Although I don’t recall exactly what I said or did in the minivan that morning that ticked her off, some sort of argument ensued.  Typical.  It seemed as though every time I turned around, there was some sort of major upset or drama with this child.  My daughter was constantly lashing out at someone:  her younger brother Jacob, little sister Laura, her father, or me. 

At times, I wondered if this was typical teenage behavior or whether we were dealing with some other unexplained issue.  It felt like I was living with two different people.  My daughter could be sweet and enjoyable one minute and angry and moody the next.  Whatever the root cause, it was beginning to take a toll on our entire household.  My younger children would often be upset with their sister or reduced to tears, and my husband and I had begun experiencing greater tension between us, too.  It seemed my angst-ridden daughter was keeping our entire household in a constant state of turmoil. 

During these tense, difficult months, I would frequently question my skills as a parent and ask myself and God, “Why is this happening?  What have I done to deserve this?”  It seemed so unfair.  I had begun feeling like a victim of circumstances.  Poor, miserable me would often host a pity party.  Mentally, I would remind myself that I had been a good daughter to my parents (and, consequently, didn’t deserve this situation based on my past wrongs), and I was a pretty good mother to my children, too.  Nevertheless, I was constantly crying out to God and asking, “Why?   Why?  Why?”  Some days I just wanted to crawl into a hole.

After I had dropped Danielle off at school that unfortunate morning, I seethed inwardly, “How dare you start my day like that!”  I was extremely angry, especially considering the fact that my day was already going to be stressful, since I was going to be giving final exams to my college math students that day.

Immediately, the thought crossed my mind, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood.” Ephesians 6:12 had popped into my head, and it immediately made me feel defensive.

“It sure feels like I’m wrestling my flesh and blood,” my mind argued. 

Within a split second, a portion of another scripture crossed my mind.  This passage had gotten me through tough times before, and it came back to me again that day at a time I really needed it:   “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7, NIV).

My mind then flashed back to the many times I had called my parents to complain about some situation, and they would usually reply, “Praise the Lord.  Are you thanking God yet, Marcia?”  I found their frequent urgings and cheerfulness a bit annoying at times.  I didn’t need a guilt trip, when I just wanted a sympathetic ear.  Couldn’t they just let me vent?  It’s hard to praise the Lord when the car breaks down, the kids get sick, or there is an unexpected expense, but at that moment, something clicked in my mind.  If I was supposed to come before God with “thanksgiving” and make my requests known to him, then that must mean I would have to THANK him for the problems.  After all, if there is a request, it generally means that there is a problem involved that needs solving. 

Since I was alone in my car and still in an angry frame of mind, I began shouting in my car:  “Thank you, Lord, that Danielle has a crummy attitude!  Thank you, Lord, that you’re going to send people across her path today!  Thank you, Lord, that you’re going to be our testimony!”  I probably shouted out several more bits of thanks to God in those few moments and said whatever came to mind.

If anyone in a passing car had noticed me yelling and gesturing, they may have thought that I looked like a crazy woman, but I didn’t care.  I felt like the kid who has finally had enough of the school bully and begins to take action by swinging his fists and hoping he hits something.  Please note that although I was angry about the situation, I was not mad at God; however, I was mad at the devil.  Consequently, each time I yelled my thanks to God, I felt like I was punching the enemy and giving him a busted lip or a bloody nose. 

It was quite therapeutic.  The next thing I knew, I began feeling a little cocky.  Inwardly, I pictured myself looking like a boxer, dancing around and taunting his opponent by saying, “You want a piece of me?  You want a piece of me?  Just try to get me, punk!  I’m not scared of you!” 

A new resolve replaced the victim mentality that I had been operating under for months.  That day I served Satan notice that if he tried to get at me again through my children, I was going to start thanking God EVERY TIME, whether I felt like it or not.  It was like I had suddenly gotten this clever idea and was boasting to my enemy by saying, “Yeah, I’m going to start thanking God.  What do you think about that, Devil?  I’m not going to take this from you anymore!”  No longer was I going to be bullied or a victim of circumstances.  I didn’t have to take this lying down, but I could now do something proactive and give the enemy a black eye in the process.  It was freeing to recognize this truth, and this realization transformed my thinking about dealing with difficult circumstances.

Surprisingly, after my “scream fest,” I began to experience a strange sort of peace, the peace that “transcends all understanding.”  It didn’t make sense, but I was no longer feeling angry.  In fact, I had a fantastic day and was pleased to learn that Danielle had also had a good day that day at school.  I thought to myself, “It works!”

Although it didn’t all happen overnight, this experience was a revelation of God’s truth that would continue to grow and change my thinking.  In the days ahead, I would cling to this truth to an even greater extent, and it would transform my life.  This was the beginning of the Thankful Principle.

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