Isn’t that a great word?
To me it means something like confused disbelief of something crummy just happening. Like picking up a baby to play a game of peek a boo and finding them, and your hand, covered in poo.
And I guess it also applies to situations a little bit more stressing, like finding out the paycheck you were supposed to be getting for work already done just isn’t coming. Seriously? Are you kidding me?
There is an element of dismay that is wishing reality was just kidding.
There are always consequences after that moment of dismay passes. Messes to clean up, creative plans to make, and emotions to deal with.
But dismay is actually a great opportunity. In that moment, while the shock is still present, we can choose what happens next. We can just react, a knee-jerk yell, favorite curse word, a fist through the wall. That’s the “easy” option. Or we can choose something else. Sometimes it takes some mental effort to extend the moment with some deep breathing or counting backwards before we can decide to act instead of react. But deciding to act instead of react is one of the most empowering things we can do. We become the master of our circumstances instead of its subject.
Pretend you are the three year old sibling to that baby covered in poo. Which scenario would you prefer? A frustrated parent shouting about the poo on their hand, escalating the tension in the home. Or the flexible parent that laughs and says, “Well, I guess we’ll play Peek-A-Poo instead!” Yes, it is possible to laugh with poop on your hand.
And what kind of person do you become when you choose to laugh? A Master of Circumstances.
My daughter has a frustratingly complicated relationship with food. She isn’t just picky, she’s emotionally destroyed if there is something on the table she doesn’t recognize or like. And it’s no joking matter, either. We don’t joke about having pasta with red sauce instead of cheese sauce. It’s sincerely hurtful to her. You would think I had pulled out a club or whip or something. She has often spoken the line that she is “scared” of food. In fact, she wouldn’t try ice cream for a long time because she was so scared of it. We have often told her to be brave, and that being brave is doing something even though you are scared. “Be the boss of your food,” we tell her. And when she chooses too, she becomes a Master of Circumstances. The rewards are great, like tasting chocolate ice cream for the first time.
The gift of agency is one of God’s greatest. With it, we can choose to follow our Savior, another one of those great gifts. When we exercise our agency, when we choose to act instead of react, we are becoming like God, and drawing closer to Him. Paradoxically, when we remember that the Lord is always with us, we have greater strength and courage, to choose.
Life right now is a bit rocky. Sparing you the details, I’m exhausted. It is so easy to give in to that and to be ornery. Or be in pain. Or be worried. But I have to remember I have a choice here. I can choose to be strong. I can choose to be a daughter of God. I can choose to master my circumstances and become more like God. Instead of reacting, I can choose to act. And sometimes that means laughing. Or crying. Or just going to bed. But when I exercise my ability to choose, I feel closer to God. And that means a greater blessing of strength. And the upward spiral continues as we grow upward.
Consider the sunflower: one of the biggest, most magnificent flowers in existence. The sunflower gets its name from always pointing its head to the sun, following its light through the sky. From the sun, it gets it’s strength. And it’s name. When we look up, look to God, we do the same.
Do you want strength to not be afraid? To not be the subject of your circumstance? Look to God and you will find your courage. Look to God and you will find strength. It’s already there, just choose to look.
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