Don't Cry Over Spilled Milk

Don't Cry Over Spilled Milk

A Christ-like attitude in the inconvenient moments

by Leslie Ludy | July 1, 2013

Last week, I spilled about a half a container of milk on the floor of our van. I don’t remember all the details of how it happened, but my guess is that I was probably unloading kids and groceries at the same time. And as usual, I must have been attempting to carry way more than was humanly possible, while simultaneously mediating a squabble between my three- and four- year-olds and trying to get my six-year-old to stop decorating her white shirt with some pink sidewalk chalk she’d discovered on her way into the house. My scattered attentions resulted in a large amount of splattered milk all over the carpeted van floor.  Which resulted in the spell of sour milk permeating our vehicle. Which resulted in kids who were whining and complaining about the smell every time they got in the car. Which resulted in me loading up all the kids the next morning and driving thirty-minutes to the only car-wash place I knew of that could shampoo car floor mats.  

I went through the tedious process of unloading four rowdy kids into the car wash parking lot, removing all of the car seats, and stashing all the random toys, books, and miscellaneous car items into a large duffle bag so the van would be clear for its thorough cleaning and the floor mats would be ready for a good washing. I hauled the kids, the car seats, and the large bag up the crowded sidewalk into the waiting area and got ready to pay for the car wash, making sure to mention that I wanted the carpets shampooed.   

The sleepy college-aged guy at the counter then informed me matter-of-factly that they had decided to stop doing carpet shampoos for the rest of the day, so all I could get would be the basic wash and vacuum. (I’m not entirely sure why they chose to stop shampooing carpets the moment I arrived, but I was convinced that they had made the decision for the express purpose of making my life more difficult.)

“I just drove thirty-minutes to have you shampoo the carpets,” I protested, “isn’t there anything you can do to help me?”

“Well,” he said in a distinctly non-helpful tone, “why don’t you just come back tomorrow?”

Uh…come back tomorrow? Excuse me, buddy. You really don’t understand my life. It’s a huge ordeal to load up my four kids and waste an hour out of my day to get the van carpets shampooed. Don’t you get it? I’m a mom of four little kids! I can’t come back tomorrow. Tomorrow I have to take one kid to the doctor, another kid to speech lessons, and another one to buy new shoes because his current pair is so caked with mud that they have morphed from light blue to dark brown. I also have to fold five loads of laundry, or my kids will be going to school in their pajamas. And I have to go back to the grocery store because I forgot to buy paper towels. Not sure when I’m going to fit that in. Plus, I’m on a deadline for a writing project. Did I mention that I’m in full-time ministry?  My schedule is super-full. I can’t even tell you all the things on my to-do list! Listen guy, you just don’t get it. There’s no way I can just drop everything and come back tomorrow to have you shampoo my van carpets, okay?

These were pretty much my exact thoughts, and I’m very glad I did not voice them out loud.

Being a perfectionist by nature, I really like it when things flow smoothly. I am not a fan of inefficient scenarios such as multiple trips to the car wash in a twenty-four hour period to clean up milk that should never have been spilled in the first place. But life with kids just somehow has a way of ushering inefficiency into my life. Things don’t always go like clockwork. And all my carefully laid plans often grow wings and fly out the window.      

One of the things God has been teaching me in my mothering lately is the importance of maintaining a happy attitude when things don’t go according to plan. Incidentally, this is one of the primary behavioral principles I’ve been attempting to instill in my children as well! Whenever their backyard adventures are interrupted by a call to come in for dinner, or when their favorite toy suddenly runs out of battery at a crucial moment in their playtime antics – they can quickly get worked up into a frenzy of emotional frustration. I discipline them for these kinds of outbursts, and talk to them about the importance of bringing their emotions under God’s control. But I realize that I often need the same kind of talking-to about my own attitudes!

Proverbs 25:28 says, “Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls.”

Psalm 37:8 says, “Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret; it only causes harm.”

When I am faced with less-than-ideal circumstances, I must make a choice. If I choose to let my emotions rule, I quickly give in to the sin of fretting and frustration, and as the Bible says, it only causes harm – both to my own soul and to those around me. But when I bring my emotions under God’s control, He gives me the grace to laugh instead of groan. When I choose contentment over frustration, I soon realize that having a totally predictable schedule and a perfectly clean car isn’t the most important thing in my life after all. Those things are nice, but when they take priority over a happy heart and peaceful spirit, they gain unhealthy hold upon my soul.

Choosing to smile instead of fret in those moments of frustration requires supernatural grace. No amount of human will-power can achieve the constant, steady, unshakable peace that the Christian life is meant to have. The secret to an unruffled, peaceful, happy outlook is in yielding fully to the Author of peace, on a moment-by-moment basis throughout the day. Isaiah 26:3 gives us an astounding and beautiful promise: “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trust in You.”

As Christ pointed out, we cannot change anything by fretting and worrying! (Matthew 6:27) If we are willing to receive it, He will give us the grace to laugh instead of worry, to rejoice in all things, and to joyfully trust Him no matter what.

It’s really that simple. Taking my focus off the dirty floor mats and irritating car wash episodes, and putting it on Jesus Christ. Shifting my gaze from the inconvenience of my circumstances to the One who gives me strength to live in triumphant victory – no matter what. 

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