In the world of nonverbal communication few expressions are more powerful than a sigh. My mother was a prolific sigher. I could hear her deflated expressions of resignation a mile away. A mom sigh was just a muted way of saying, “All hope is lost. Bring on more disappointments.” Her sigh was also functional. It signaled me that something was up and I would ask if there was anything I could do to turn the tide of impending doom. Researchers tell us that a sigh is almost always the expression of a negative emotion like frustration, despair, longing or loss. True, but occasionally a sigh is positive. There is a sigh that bespeaks the person’s determination to accomplish a goal. The “take-a-deep-breath-and-do-it” sigh is the other side of the “we’re doomed” coin.
I hear a lot sighs in my counseling office. One sigh in particular is a fairly reliable measure of a person’s relational maturity. When I hear this sigh from an adult in marital counseling, I know we’ve got a long road ahead of us. I call it the do-I-have-to sigh. When my kids were little the do-I-have-to sigh usually followed a parental request/command. You know the routine: Parent says to child, “Your bedroom is a mess. Clean it up.” Child responds, “SIGH. Do I have to?” My kids can tell you how well that little invitation to negotiate worked in our home. Most people eventually grow up and learn that life is not all about their schedule and their wants and their comfort and their timing. Other people’s requests count and love involves setting aside one’s agenda to meet someone else’s legitimate needs. Mature people view loved ones requests as opportunities to demonstrate how much they care. The do-I-have-to of childhood hopefully turns into the do-I-get-to of adulthood.
Do-I-get-to recognizes that it is truly more blessed to give than to receive. And it also affirms another time honored saying: “Actions speak louder than words.” I can say I love you all day everyday but if I automatically exhale a do-I-have-to whine when asked for help, you will naturally doubt the sincerity of my words. Marriages that are characterized more by do-I-have-to than do-I-get-to are predictably unsatisfying and bitter. The same holds true in our relationship with Christ. If my worship or service or devotion is mostly a duty bound do-I-have-to then I have truly missed the heart and soul of the gospel. Lord help me if I lose the gratitude that I feel when I-get-to serve the Lord in missions, I-get-to teach Sunday school at my church, I-get-to worship with other believers and I-get-to read God’s Word in my own language.
Final thought: Can you imagine God listening to your prayer requests with a do-I-have-to sigh? Or as the plan of salvation was determined in eternity past, can you honestly hear the Son whining, “Do-I-have-to leave Heaven to live in a 1st century world and die on a Roman cross for those people’s sins?” Or when you confess your sins, could you ever envision the Lord reply, “Sigh. Not again. Do-I-have-to forgive you when you’re just gonna do the same thing again in the next 24 hours?” Nope. I cannot picture any of that. Think about the joyful willingness of Christ next time a loved one makes a request or has a need. You are deeply blessed to have loved ones in your life that you-get-to love in those precious ways.
Besides that…it is fortnight. Can you handle fortnight? I hope so. You only get-to do it every two weeks.