For the past few days, I’ve been learning about habits of the mind. Unfortunately, my lessons are occurring in real-time— in all the unglamorous and sometimes aggravating details of my life as a wife, mother and owner of two Labrador retrievers—one of whom inspired this essay. Although I imagined myself to be intentional about nearly everything I do, something had escaped my scrutiny. A rogue habit reigned over a covert kingdom of dashed hopes; it was my habit of selfish expectations.
We all have expectations of how our calendars should look; and to some degree, this brings order to life. Monday arrives in its predictably harsh and harried way; we must ditch the sweatpants, grit our teeth and re-engage both traffic and brains. We commit anew to our weekly endeavors, fully expecting some unpleasantness in the process. Monday fires our productive engines, however faintly they’re felt in our early morning grogginess. Grace and Duty of Bein... Buy New $6.99 (as of 09:02 UTC - Details)
Friday, on the other hand, brings a different sort of expectation. It must arrive in its Hawaiian shirt, and it must be pleasant. Our “fun” Friday promises to release us, finally, to hard-earned leisure and independence. It’s the doorway to two glorious days of life—real or imagined—outside the otherwise dull confines of weekday schedules.
A recent Friday took a rather irritating turn from my expectations, though. On several fronts, it failed to deliver its promised fun. First, driving to my kids’ school, the car ahead of me crawled slowly for no discernible reason, causing me to miss a green light and adding precious minutes to the trip. Outraged by this unforgivable sin, I fumed at the “idiotic” driver for an additional twenty minutes. When I got home, I took my suddenly sick dog to the vet, whose exam included many suggestions of impending death, which led to an emergency surgery to remove the world’s most expensive hickory nut—a $2000 surprise.
This was a shattering bit of lunchtime news, but it was still early. Other tasks lay ahead: one child needed to be picked up from school, two had basketball games, and one had baseball practice—and the dog still needed to be picked up from his expensive surgery. After all this, weekend visitors were due to arrive at dinnertime with two more Labrador retrievers, and—poof!—my universe quickly shrank to the size of my worldly grievances. To put it mildly, I was not in a good mindset.
Faith and Liberty: The... Best Price: $12.99 Buy New $38.11 (as of 09:57 UTC - Details) John Owen wrote a book that addresses our mindsets—and, coincidentally or not, I started reading it recently. In Grace and Duty of Being Spiritual Minded, he explains the difference between those whose minds are consumed by worldly concerns and those whose minds are absorbed by the things of God. The teaching is simple and is based on Romans 8:6, which reads, “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”
“The flesh” is the biblical term for the affections and thoughts inspired by sinful desires and worldly intrigues; ultimately, the mind set on the flesh leads to spiritual death. In contrast, the mind set on the “Spirit” loves what God loves and thinks with the mind of Christ; it leads to life and peace. Although Owen was addressing the ultimate and eternal significance of one’s prevailing mindset, this simple formula proves true amid the stuff of daily life, too—as my humbling Friday experience quickly proved.
Under Friday’s fusillade of unruly and selfish thoughts, I fell into a fleshly mindset, and—true to scripture—it reeked of death. Its dark arithmetic was impossible, excluding even the possibility of God’s care; multiplying evils conspired against me and my Friday expectations; my foes were many— slow drivers, hickory nuts, dogs, veterinarians, sports teams, and time itself. It didn’t take long for me to tumble into an angry panic.