I’m writing this before I know the results of the election.
In fact, I’ve decided that I’m not watching the news at all on Tuesday night, and I’ll just take a peek when I get up on Wednesday (oh, please, God, let things be clear and no recounts necessary).
And I want to give you all a bit of a pep talk this morning.
No matter who wins, I know many of you will be upset.
Some because the person you really wanted to win didn’t win. And some because the person you voted for DID win–but you still think it was an ugly choice.
And in the middle of all of it, someone shared on Facebook a long quote from an article I wrote two years ago, and reminded me of it again. I thought it was worth sharing. I was talking about how so often we spend most of our emotional energy worrying about things over which we have no control. And if, instead, we were to dedicate that energy to things we could control–well, life would be much better.
Here’s what I said:
The more time we spend in the circles we can control and influence, the more influence we will have. And as we do that, often our sphere of influence grows. We’re actually more effective. And there’s a side benefit: people who spend most of their emotional energy in these two circles tend to be more joyful and peaceful. They aren’t worrying about things they can do nothing about; they’re pouring their energy into things they can influence, and often they’re seeing real changes.
Let me give you two examples of how this plays out. In marriage, we often spend most of the time wondering how we can get our husbands to change: how to make them more romantic; how to get them to spend more time with the family; how to get them to want to talk to us. But you can’t change him. If you spend more time in the circle you can control, though–yourself–you will likely see your marriage changing. You can change how you react to him. You can find ways to insert joy into your life. You can change how you react to the kids and change the tone of the house. And as you do that, you’ll find your marriage, and your attitude about marriage, improving.
Here’s another one: when I was pregnant with my second child, we found out that he had a serious heart defect that would likely end his life early. I spent a lot of time in that outer circle, worrying about him and fretting and crying. But I couldn’t do anything about his heart defect. When I decided to spend time in the circle I could control–my own reactions–I started looking for little things to be grateful for everyday. I started learning to savour every moment I had with him. And when Christopher did pass away, I was much more peaceful about it because I had leaned on God rather than given over to worry.
I don’t know how you’re feeling today, but let me assure you of a most basic truth:
The person with the most power to set the course of your life is not the president. It is you.
And there’s another truth that goes right beside that:
The people who will have the most influence over the course of your children’s lives are not in Congress or the halls of power. They’re you and your husband.
Yes, good government matters. Yes, politicians matter. Yes, there is something to mourn when we don’t have good government, and it’s very frustrating to think of how much better it would be if wise people were running the country instead of corrupt, greedy ones.
But you know what? Ultimately, in your own life, you matter more than they do.
Let’s not lose perspective!
Do you know what sets kids up for success? Whether or not their parents are married and stay married. Seriously. The marriage gap is more important in explaining kids’ lack of success than parents’ income or parents’ education or even parents’ race. Stability matters more than any of the rest of that.
And when we raise our kids with stability AND with God? The sky’s the limit! Those kids can be the real world changers, even if they never serve in politics, because they can change the world of those right around them and even further afield where God may lead.
Think about the influence a stable marriage has!
It means that instead of energy being spent in emotional drama or in building two separate houses, two people can pool their resources and can specialize, each of them doing what they do best. You can be more efficient in how you spend your time, and you can help each other, meaning that there’s more time to give to your kids. And there’s more time to give to your community.
A stable marriage is cheaper than two people living apart. You have more money to give to change this world. You have more money to keep the stress down in your family.
A stable marriage means that you can be a light to those around you that love is possible.
A stable marriage means that your kids are far less likely to do drugs or drink, to get pregnant before they’re married, and far more likely to go on to post secondary education.
A stable marriage means that you have backup when a child needs your help. You have backup when an aging parent needs care. You have backup when a sister or brother gets in trouble. You become the social safety net.
A stable marriage means that you’re far less likely to live in poverty.
And a stable marriage means that when one of you needs help, the other is there.
It is not government that is the best social safety net. It is a stable family. And you can do that no matter who is president! And from the stability of that marriage, you can make a difference in people’s lives around you. No politician can take that from you.
And that’s why I write this blog–to help you build your marriages so that we can be world changers.
Yes, a bad government can make it less likely that other people will have stable marriages, and that is something to mourn. But your own life? That’s totally up to you.
I watched this Dave Ramsey video yesterday when I was trying to stay away from the news websites, and I thought he said it really well:
“You are the secret sauce in your life.”
You are the one who decides what your life turns out like–not anyone else. You are the special ingredient. And that means:
“It’s not going to fix itself. It’s up to you to change it.”
Thinking that if we just get the right government in power all our problems will be fixed is utter nonsense. The government isn’t supposed to figure out your life. Only you can. And nobody else cares as much about your life as you do. That’s why:
“You’ve got to work like it all depends on you and pray like it all depends on God.”
We need both. And too many of us are waiting for someone to sweep in and save us and give us a better life or a better marriage–we’re waiting for the government, or we’re waiting for God, but we’re not doing the things that we know need to get done. God helps us, yes, but He tends to help us when we start acting responsibly and moving in the right direction.
“I was blessed by God and I worked my butt off.”
And that’s how it will work for each and every one of us. No matter who is president, we can be blessed by God when we decide to follow Him.
Fretting about the election will not get us blessed by God. Being sad about the state of our nation may be normal, but it’s an awfully big waste of good emotional energy.
What would happen if everybody who has cried and yelled and spilled their guts on Facebook about this election decided instead to spend that time just talking to a child, or praying, or writing an encouragement note, or reading a book on how to reconnect with their husband? What would happen if instead of worrying about the state of our country we started doing something about it here, at home?
No matter what happened last night, I know that I am upset (I’m sort of writing this to future Sheila, since I’m writing this early!). But I’m not upset for my own marriage or my own life, because I know that ultimately I am the one who has the most power to influence that and change it. I’m upset for other people who need good government more than I do. For me, I know I’ll be okay. I’m prepared to work hard, and I have God.
And you know what? So do you.
If you want the world to be a better place, then let’s work at building your marriage!
Let’s all put on our big girl pants and get to work building the kind of life we know that God wants for us! Nobody else can do that for us–especially not a politician.
And if we surrender to God and do it in His strength, then we honestly will be okay.