I want to challenge you to listen to yourself to discover how much you say, “I have to.” Think about it: I have to go to work. I have to clean the house. I have to lead the Bible study again this week. We have to eat at home again. We have to go to Grandma’s house. How many have to’s do you say in a day?
What might happen if we make a subtle change in our language? I get to go to work. I get to clean the house. I get to lead the Bible study. We get to eat at home again rather than fighting restaurant crowds and noise. We get to go to Grandma’s house.
Do you hear the difference in tone made by that one little word change? It’s huge!
To have to go to work can imply drudgery and unhappiness. Now, to be sure, we may not always (or ever!) be thrilled with our jobs, but we get to go to work. That is, we have jobs. We can help to support our families. We can use our God-given abilities. We can even make an impact there.
In a similar way, when our kids hear us say “I get to clean our house,” it speaks volumes. We have a roof over our heads. I’ve been entrusted with its care. I am able-bodied enough to do this work. Praise God.
What about leading the Bible study? I get to share my passion for God’s Word. I get to use my spiritual gift of teaching. I get to minister to hurting women. When our children hear this language they, too, may choose to see how blessed they are when they get to do things.
And eating in? Having to eat at home can imply we’d rather be out with friends or eating something else somewhere else, sometimes just because that’s what we think all our friends are doing. But, getting to eat at home can emphasize our love of family, our preference for quieter conversations, and our hope we’ll have time to play a game or help with homework afterwards.
By now you’re thinking, “But let’s be honest. Sometimes work feels more like an obligation than a privilege. And preparing to lead the Bible study takes time, which I never have enough of. And house cleaning? Get real! I’m not going to lie to my children about the realities of life.”
No, you don’t want to lie. But the beauty of choosing to see have to’s where get to’s have been is the shift that will occur in your own heart. Yes, Jesus condemned the Pharisees for working to look good on the outside without regard to their hearts’ conditions (Matthew 23:27). But God can work from the outside-in to change your heart. You can choose to obey His commands to be thankful and content. It will feel good, feel right, and be fulfilling. Your heart can follow.
So, in all seriousness, ask God to help you identify some get to areas in your life. Also, ask Him to remind you to use the get to phrase, especially in the presence of your children. If you do this, I would be very surprised if you do not find contentment and gratitude for much that you presently have to do.
And then it can transfer to your children. Could a child be more willing to clean his room if his parents suddenly get to clean the kitchen? Might a teen with a negative view of school change her attitude when her parents suddenly get to go to work? Could children of all ages increase their contentment for their present circumstances rather than always thinking about what they don’t have or can’t do?
This change won’t happen overnight. But, believe it can happen.
Of course, some have to’s are much harder than others to turn into get to’s. It would be flippant to announce, “Oh, goody, I get to see the oncologist!” But there are things we can be grateful for even in the midst of understandable concern: cancer has been discovered and we get to do something about it.
In your life, what have to can you turn into a get to? Earnestly give it to God and then watch. How does your choice affect your attitudes? What effect is it having on your children?
Don’t stop with just one! Keep on changing have to’s – big and small – into get to’s. Let’s see what God can do with that!
A version of this blog was published in Just Between Us in 2005.