How do you turn a burden into a blessing? It’s a one-word wonder.
There are “I have to” lists lurking in every corner of my life. What I have to do before the next church board meeting; what I have to do if I want clean socks tomorrow.
I have to call my ailing sister. I have to pay the bills. I have to take my meds. I have to call the plumber. I have to get to an outreach meeting, a housing meeting, and the grocery store.
It seems as though every “I have to” that I check off gets immediately replaced by two or three more.
Compared to the lives of many people juggling impossible loads of earning a living and caring-giving for their parents and raising children, my life should be more manageable and joyful.
I’m tired of hearing myself complain “I’m so busy ... I have to ...”
The word “overwhelm” means drowned, buried, swamped. But am I really overwhelmed? Or am I treading water in a sea of tasks, commitments and responsibilities, and allowing a negative attitude to drag me under?
There are many organizing ideas for better managing our lives, but the best approach I’ve found came into my inbox recently: Simply change one word, so “I have to” becomes “I get to.”
Within this simple one-word change is the opportunity to move from cursing the ever-growing lists to counting my abundant blessings. My prayers move from “heaven help me!” to “Thank you, God!”
This is how it works for me. I can moan that “I have to” do too many work-related projects that challenge my skills and experience. Or I can say that “I get to” learn new skills in my profession and share them with people asking for help. “Thank you, God.”
“I have to” do a huge laundry before I can pack for vacation. Or I can say “I get to” own enough (more than enough!) clothes, and have access to clean water to wash them in. And take a vacation! “Thank you, God.”
“I have to” call my sister who’s in the hospital (again!). Keeping up with her health challenges is, I admit, depressing and scary for me. “I get to” reminds me to take the focus off myself, that showing her my concern and love makes it less depressing and scary for her. “Thank you, God”.
You can see where this is going: My “I have to’s” so often are gifts of opportunity, privilege and abundance. They are much more a blessing than a burden. Thank you, God!
Things I do that feel like drudgery or that I resent having to do, rarely teach me anything except that I can create my own misery if I want to. “I have to” shuts me down. I’m apt to do the minimum needed and then withdraw. My muttered prayer is “let’s get this over with.”
Things I do with a grateful heart are often full of opportunities for thanksgiving, for making connections with people, for creating an atmosphere of peace in the midst of busyness. “I get to” opens me up to myriad possibilities. “Thank you” is my prayerful response.
One of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver, writes: “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
Complain or celebrate? Resent or rejoice? One little word can change burden to blessing.
Thank you, God!
Rev. Janet Griffin is the congregational developer for the Southwest region of the Episcopal Diocese of Spokane. She lives in Richland.