Did you ever find yourself in the grip of if only?
If only I would have worked a little harder yesterday my son would have started sixth grade today with freshly baked muffins and a whole weeks worth of ironed uniforms instead of cereal and only one uniform ready (never mind that yesterday’s awful body aches from this nasty cold have mercifully eased.)
If only there hadn’t been unexpected rain last evening that made it hard for my husband to get home on time and interfered with my plans for a happy family back-to-school dinner (never mind that he DID get home safely. On his motorcycle. In the rain.)
And on a more discordant and shameful note, usually after I’ve lost my cool about something: if only the people in my life would stop making these unreasonable demands on me, like breathing air in my presence, then I would be… I don’t even know. Holy, maybe. (this is usually about the point that I start fantasizing about living in an enclosure like Julian of Norwich.)
And you know what? It’s a lie. If only is always a big, fat lie.
At best, if only is the enemy of joy. It promotes the fallacy that gratitude is situational; that we should give thanks only when things are ‘going our way.’ If only distracts us from the gifts that are truly there. Yes, we ate in shifts last night. But dinner was delicious, we lit the candles, and talked about hopes and dreams for the coming year. And my husband is safe. Yes, I have more ironing to do today (and maybe a little baking!) but we started off the first day of sixth grade laughing and singing as a family, and I don’t feel as crummy as I did yesterday.
At worst, if only is sinful. There’s no other word for it. When if only has me thinking that I know better than God the path to my sanctification; when if only has me treating other people, especially those I am most called to love, as nuisances, then I am on a seriously dangerous path and need to ask for forgiveness.
For here on earth there is no perfection, either of situation or of people. But I have learned that it is in embracing the daily imperfect that gratitude and joy are found. In higher education we speak of ‘triggers.’ If only is a trigger for me – whenever I hear that phrase in my thoughts, it is a signal to me that I need to stop and reframe my thinking. If any of you have great ideas about how to stop if only in its tracks, I would love to hear them!
By the way, because I’ve had requests, I’ve added an email follow button under the widgets link and social media buttons to the bottom of the posts. May peace attend you always.