There are a couple of things I left out of my description of our camping trip last week. That would be the prevalence of large ticks (happily not the Lyme disease kind) and poison ivy. They were both all over. As evidence, I snapped a picture of B.'s leg right before he used his pocket knife to scrape off the two ticks which were on it. (You're welcome! I know I made everyone's day with this one.)
But these annoyances got me to thinking. Much of our contentment with life has to do with what we focus on. We had a great camping trip; everyone had fun, we were in a place of natural beauty, and we enjoyed a relaxing time of fellowship with good friends. But that is because that is what we chose to focus on. The trip would have been much different if we had chosen to focus on the ticks and poison ivy. They were everywhere. The poison ivy grew thickly just about everywhere, and particularly on the second hike, most of the path was lined with it. The ticks were almost as frequently occurring, and tick hunting and disposing became a sort of past time. Or a great big science experiment as people tried different methods of extermination. (The results? Not much actually kills them. You really need a knife or very sharp rock... something with a strong point.) Next year we may try tick races because they are naturally drawn toward body heat. Do we know how to have fun, or what?
If we had spent our time complaining and trying to eradicate and avoid these nuisances, we would have been miserable. We would have been so focused on the negatives that we wouldn't have been able to see or enjoy the positives. Granted some of these negatives can be painful and uncomfortable (J. reacts pretty badly to poison ivy), but they were really just a small part of our trip.
This is very much like life in general, isn't it? There is a lot that is positive, but there are also negatives, some painful. It's all mixed together. Because we live in a fallen world, in this life we are not going to get only the good stuff and if we wait to be content until we have only good stuff we will be waiting a long time and miss out on enjoying a lot of the good. I'm not proposing that we all put on rose colored glasses and pretend the bad stuff isn't there. It is and needs to be dealt with. We had to be alert for ticks and poison ivy and take the necessary precautions against them. We also had to deal with the after effects. But this is different from focusing on them.
When we focus on the negatives instead of the positives, we give those negatives more attention and energy than they deserve. It is so easy to become consumed with them. We need to be Pollyanna in the best sense of the phrase. We need to look for the things in our life to be thankful for and focus on them, because what we focus on is what we remember and is what influences our actions and attitudes. Yes, the ticks and poison ivy are still there, but it's far more satisfying to remember the children and friendship and fun.