Re-Forming Focus, Perspective, and Expectations

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I came across this quote a few weeks ago. Perhaps you’ve seen it too:

“Was it a bad day, or was it a bad five minutes that you milked all day?”

As I write this I’m still not sure if I like or dislike the quote. I certainly identify with it. Nailing down my specific feelings towards it has been hard to do, but maybe that’s just because I’m often unaware of my feelings, in a Bryant Gumbel “What is Internet?!” kind of way. What is feelings?!

Here’s what I do know: the quote is complex because I identify with it in conflicting ways.

On one hand I easily see myself saying those words to someone who’s been moping around all day. In that case, I’m identifying with the speaker who seems to have a proper perspective on the situation. Cool quote.

On the other hand, I also identify with the person who needs those words said to them. I’m the one who’s moping around being overdramatic. In that case, I dislike the quote because it’s (appropriately) convicting.

Why do we let negative things affect us so profoundly? In trying to unpack that, I think it comes down to three things for me: improper focus, improper perspective, and improper expectations.

  • Focus: My self-centeredness places the entire focus of the day on me. “I didn’t get what I wanted so my day is ruined. My goal wasn’t achieved. My desire to do anything else is shot. My failure or pain is more important than anyone else today.”
  • Perspective: When my perspective is out of whack it tells me that the bad news is monumental. “It’s larger than I think and I need to dwell on it because it’s so terrible. My full attention needs to be on this bad news because it affects everything.”
  • Expectations: When un-checked, my expectation for any given day can be skewed dramatically by a sense of entitlement. “I’ve worked hard and done good things, so I deserve a great day. I deserve nothing but good news all day. Anything negative would be unwarranted and unfounded, so if bad news comes I’m going to be ticked off and I’d be completely justified for being angry the rest of the day.”

During times like that it feels as though I’m under attack; there seems to be a relentless barrage of negative thoughts that aim to steal my attention and consume my day. But, during these times I’ve forgotten to “put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. (…) And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests” (Ephesians 6:11, 18).

A  few weeks ago, Erik defined our Christian identity as “always reformed, always transforming.” This is exactly the reminder we need to keep our focus, perspective, and expectations properly aligned with God. By choosing to turn away from our improper thoughts and towards God, we’re allowing God to re-form us as we stumble through hard times.  Life will always present us with opportunities to mope around all day, but it’s our identity in Christ that helps us get up and continue our day to the good works He has prepared for us.