It’s pitch black in here, except for the glow of the laptop screen. The power’s out and that has a way of reorganizing my morning routine. Normally, I would be online, working through a Bible Study, but without power, the cable modem doesn’t work — and without the modem, we are “disconnected” at the moment. So instead of responding by rolling over and sleeping in, I will write the newsletter a few days early, simply because having no electricity (except for the wonderful power from batteries) is the inspiration to write about how to respond when we don’t have control of the circumstances in our lives.
There are two primary ways we can respond when the world sends us events that are beyond what it seems like we can manage: 1) We can retreat, lash out, or react impulsively; or 2) We can react rationally and look for new opportunities within the circumstances. The second is the wiser option, because it is the only choice that brings us to a place where we can understand the two categories of situations and events that happen in life.
The Things We Cannot Change
The first category of events and situations we face in life are the things that we cannot change, and most of these are so far removed from us that we cannot even influence them. Perhaps it is a pessimistic, hostile, angry, or negative coworker who you don’t get along with. Perhaps it is an illness that mysteriously showed up in your life recently. Perhaps it is a loved one who passed away unexpectedly. Perhaps it was some accident that left you changed permanently. Perhaps it is sitting in the dark with no electricity.
These are all situations that we have no control over. With the rise of the mass media, we have arrived at a place where there is no shortage of information about things we cannot change. I would speculate that less than one tenth of one percent of things shown in the daily news are things that we can change. Instead it is a one way street of sharing information we cannot change, but that others think we should know.
So much of life is composed of the things we cannot change that too often we lose track of the other category in life.
The Things We Can Change
There is really only one thing we can change in life: our choices. We could also call this our decisions, our actions, or our responses. What we choose to do, how we choose to respond, and how we choose our perspective when facing things we cannot change will direct the course of our life.
As I write this, I’m still in the dark. The electricity has not come back on. However, the choice/decision/response I am picking is to look over the things that I can do, and select one. While it isn’t my first choice, for a dark Tuesday morning, it is one less thing that I have to worry about later this week when having electricity will allow for more clutter on my to-do list.
Most things that happen to us are things we cannot change, but we can always choose how we will respond. It is in how we respond to the current situations that give us influence over the future things in our lives. Our responses then become instrumental in determining the direction of our future.
I have begun living life in this way. I have become incredibly intentional about how I respond and the specific choices I make. I have learned that my choices and responses are what speak to the world about who I am. I have begun to do simple things (such as tipping at a restaurant, patiently driving in crazy traffic, and giving the benefit of a doubt) primarily out of knowing and understanding that it is more about who I am, and less about who the other person is.
Staying up in the dark to write this says more to me and about me than if I were to roll over and fall asleep. Responding with forgiveness when people have wronged me says more about me than it does them. Moving forward when things don’t go as planned says more about me than about what went wrong. My choices create my story . . . and whether you think so or not, the same is true for you!
Do you live intentionally, or do you struggle with managing circumstances? Join the conversation below!
[Follow-up note: We were without power for a little less than three hours that morning. The wind had knocked over a power-line near our house probably minutes before we woke up for our day. Shortly after leaving for work, the power was restored. Suzie and I had a lovely candlelight shower and breakfast and chose to make the best of the unplanned “opportunity for a memory”. :)]