I am currently in the middle of a painting project. Last fall we had some renovation and addition work done to our house. To save on the cost of the project we decided to do the painting ourselves. I have completed most of the work, but am just now tackling the playroom. (Can you say procrastination?)
I normally enjoy painting. A twenty five dollar can of paint, a couple of days, and you’ve instantly transformed the whole look of a room. This particular paint project, however, has given me no such joy. In fact, I dread it. I whine about it. I procrastinate (obviously). I have little or no motivation. I look for excuses. I get mad at my husband for wanting to save money. I don’t want to do it, not at all.
I recently began reading Boundaries with Kids by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. Note I said “began reading” instead of “currently reading” as I tend to begin parenting books but rarely finish them. Generally speaking, I dislike parenting books. I have enough guilt on my own, thank you very much. But, Boundaries came as a recommendation from a friend of mine who shares my same guilt trip tendencies, so I thought I’d give it a try. Which I did, and the part I read, I liked, so maybe I will pick it up again soon.
Anyway, in the book the authors make the point that kids need to understand that “It’s hard” doesn’t mean “I can’t”:
Being unable differs from being uncomfortable…what [kids] don’t enjoy, they think they can’t do…Thinking that he can’t do what he doesn’t enjoy impedes a child’s learning that life and problems are his responsibility, not someone else’s. He will either give up difficult things because they are too hard, charm someone else into doing them for him, or find shortcuts like cheating on exams… Children will take every opportunity they can to shirk their responsibilities until we make taking owenership an expected lifestyle.
I see this in my own kids. Invariably, any request I make concerning chores or any other responsibility outside the realm of “fun” is met with argument and whining and protest. “I don’t WANT to do that!” is a common refrain around here, to which I usually answer “I don’t remember asking if you WANTED to!”
But it’s not just our kids that need to learn this particular boundary. We see it everywhere. Marriage, work, even church, if we don’t enjoy it, we think we can’t do it, that we need to move on or move out or quit altogether. How many times have you and I heard the phrase “I’m just not getting anything out of ________”(fill in the blank: worship, the preaching, staying home with the kids, my job, etc.). Ours is a culture consumed with the pursuit of pleasing ourselves. Instead of “do what you love” we’ve adopted the creed “do only what you love.” And when it gets difficult and seems hard, we are like children: refusing responsibility and giving up.
Same thing with painting my playroom. I want to give up; I can’t tell you how tempted I am to quit, just close the door and ignore the work needing to be done. I mean, I’ve managed to avoid the work for ten months or so already! Besides, there are other things I would certainly enjoy more: sitting on my back porch with a good book and a cup of coffee for instance.
I certainly do not intend to give the impression that there should be no joy in our work. Nor that doing things because we enjoy them is somehow wrong. I am only making the point that we (me) have a tendency toward laziness and avoidance of responsibility. Our God has called us to do the work He has set before us and find joy in the privilege of serving Him.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Col. 3:23-24