My five-year-old can’t stop saying the f-word.
It just happened. I didn’t teach it to her. Her mom didn’t either. But again and again — and every Saturday without fail — she wants to know, in a voice tinged with concern, “What are we going to do today for fun?”
Kids have a corner on the market of fun, you know. It’s basically enigmatic to most adults. Perhaps the new definition should go something like this: fun [fuhn]: noun; an esoteric concept, embedded deep in the mind of a child, which they cannot adequately communicate.
As a dad, I consider myself both an advocate and agent of my children’s happiness. I want them to be happy, and I want to lead them in things that are, well, fun (whatever that is). But the problem is that, at least lately, I’ve not hit the target. Sub-par activities are greeted with grumbling, and the actual “fun” activities are brushed off with entitlement — all of which has led to a new rule in our house:
- when you hear instructions you don’t like, you respond, “Okay.”
- when you hear instructions you do like, you respond, “Thank you.”
Those are really the only two options.
You can ask questions later. I’m good with questions. No issue there. But for the first response, it’s either “okay” or “thank you.” Counter-offers are not accepted. We don’t do negotiations. It’s “okay” or it’s “thank you.” Capiche?
More Than Manners
There’s good reason for this. It’s not merely a matter of manners. The words mean less than the habit of the heart I hope is formed by their use — the habit of trust and gratitude. Those are the antidotes to grumbling and entitlement. We only grumble because we don’t trust the Providence of our circumstances (Exodus 16:7), and we only feel entitled when we mistake our gifts as something we deserve (1 Corinthians 4:7).
So behind “okay” is the wondrous resolve to accept reality not as chaotic happenstance, but as motions put in action by someone who loves me — by a dad who is both an advocate and agent of his children’s happiness. And then behind “thank you” is the eye-opening bewilderment that I have received good for which I have neither paid nor earned — good from a dad who, at his own cost, delights in the smile of his children. See, kids, it’s either “okay” or “thank you.” Don’t you get it? Don’t you know that I love you? Don’t you know we don’t have to do anything?
And then there’s that moment when, in the face of your disgruntled piglets, you see your own heart before God. Oh, Father. I get it. I see what you did there.
Just as Convoluted
We Christian Hedonists believe that God is most glorified in us when we’re most satisfied in him. We’ll highlight this truth in our books. We’ll tweet about it all day long. We’ll sing about it on Sunday mornings. But then things don’t go our way.
The traffic jam is ridiculous. The meeting lasts too long. The doctor tells you it’s cancer. The company goes in a different direction. And suddenly we find ourselves, when the pressure is put on, oozing another grumble. We hurt. We shake our heads. We throw our tantrums. As it turns out, the rock-solid joy we celebrate is actually more illusive than we thought.
Or then things really do go our way.
We’re killing it at work. The accolades are rolling in. That promotion is just around the corner. The mood at home is at an incredible high. The kids are doing well in school. The marriage bed is all it’s meant to be. You wake up in the morning with a bluebird on your shoulder. And suddenly we find ourselves, if we could actually see ourselves, grinning from ear to ear, happy as a clam, thinking that we’ve done something great — that, because of a little success, we are awesome and this is how it should be. We smile. We cheer. We’re glad. But that rock-solid joy we celebrate actually finds its anchor somewhere else.
So we come to find out that we’re kids all over again. We’re jerked around by the undercurrent of grumbling, tossed to and fro by the waves of entitlement. Our definition for blessing is as convoluted as a five-year-old’s standard for fun.
For Day-In, Day-Out
We know this isn’t right, and we wish it were different. What we need isn’t so much new information, but the wisdom — the grace — to connect the dots of what we know to the circumstances where it matters. And that is why, within this vision of life known as Christian Hedonism, two of the most helpful, practical words for the day-in, day-out stuff of life are “okay” and “thank you.”
Two of the most helpful, practical words for the day-in, day-out stuff of life are “okay” and “thank you.”
When things go sideways, whether in the valley of deepest suffering, or even in the petty annoyance of disappointed plans, we simply stop, bow our heads, and say, “Okay.” We don’t like it this way. We wouldn’t choose it.
But we know — we know — that every circumstance in our lives comes through the loving hands of a Father who is devoted to our eternal flourishing. We know, as the apostle Paul tells us, that because we were made his in Christ, God’s incomparable power is only and always wielded for our good (Romans 8:28). No, we don’t like it. And yes, we have some questions. But first, by his grace, we say, “Okay.” Father, okay. It hurts. I don’t understand. But I trust you.
And then when we’re soaring, when we’re skipping along the mountain peaks of life, we stop, find a quiet place, and bawl our eyes out that God would be this kind to me — a sinner, a fool, a hopeless creature, if not for his mercy.
So we laugh to scorn those subtle thoughts that try to take the credit, and we get beside ourselves in joy — a joy that knows these little pleasures in life are but a fleeting glimpse into that ocean of gladness that awaits us. And it is there, in that ocean, that we cast our anchor, and say, “Thank you.” Father, I don’t deserve this. You are just this good, and even better.
It’s either “okay” or “thank you.”