Help for the Angry Idealist

Sep 3, 2014

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We decided to visit a local waterpark one more time before the season ended. After enjoying lots of slides, the boys asked to go in the wave pool. Knox held my right hand as we ran into the deepening water.

Eventually we got to a point neither of us could touch the bottom. He and I bobbed up and down with each wave, smiling and laughing.

Slowly, we were pushed to the edges of the water, the fake “shore”. The waves which a few moments before were enjoyable now crashed rhythmically on top of us.

Knox was not a fan. With each hit he yelled at the water, which was about every 1.5 seconds. And I giggled (not in a cruel way, of course).

In his two-year-old brain he thought his anger would stop the waves. I understood the silliness of his emotions.

I knew his yelling was wasted. Only a timer on the machine behind the fake dock-motif held the power to stop these incessant waves.

His ideal was calm water. And when that ideal wasn’t met, the result was anger.

I totally get it. I’m a fellow idealist.

I picture well-behaved children. A clean home. Kind friends. Loving siblings. Peace & Truth.

When the reality comes crashing down on me. . .repeatedly. . .I get angry.

I’ve written before about the “crazy comes waves“. How sometimes I paint the whole day as bad, when in fact it was just a few times in a day where things got hairy.

Seeing Knox’s response to the waves, awoken me to the futility of my anger. What does it help if I get mad that the waves are coming? They are going to come. Reality is never going to match my ideals.

So what should I do?

Lower my ideals? Not expect great things in life or from my children?

Maybe it’s not about lowering ideals, but holding up promises.

Perhaps my ideals fall short of reality because they aren’t realistic.

Our family camp speaker, Peter Reid pointed this out when he said,

God commands kids to obey, but did not promise obedient kids.

I can keep getting mad that my kids don’t obey (hold up the ideal of obedient children). OR I can teach them God’s command and His promise that life will go better when they obey and let God handle the rest.

Because back at the waterpark, when we were fully submerged in the waves, Knox wasn’t angry. He didn’t feel uncomfortable. All we did was float up and down.

Perhaps being fully submerged in God’s promises, my joy will increase as the tension of my unmet expectations decreases.

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So let’s look at what God promises and what the reality of life includes (Peter Reid wrote the following list)

“God promises:

  • Comfort, but not a life without pain
  • Joy, but not a life without sorrow
  • Fairness, but not a life without injustice
  • Power, but not a life without weakness
  • Victory, but not a life without conflict
  • Presence, but not a life without loneliness
  • Blessing, but not a life without obedience
  • Reward, but not a life without service
  • Sufficiency, but not a life without faith”

                    -Peter Reid

What ideal are you holding on to today? What promise does God give us in that area?

Wouldn’t it be cool if we could gather a list of God’s promises in the comments? (click here to add one).


  1. Shonda

    Oh, my goodness. Yesterday was my 40th birthday and I have been struggling with my “angry idealist” mentality. I loved what you wrote and it really spoke to me. I really want to extend more grace and love to my little ones and I just want to be submerged with God and cling to his promises as you wrote.

    • Heather MacFadyen

      happy birthday, shonda!! so thankful I’m not alone. what promise speaks to you most?

      • The Knowlton Nest

        I think what speaks to me most from Peter Reid’s list is “Power, but not a life without weakness.” I want to be in control so much, but it seems the more I want to be in control, the more out of control life is and I become both in action and words. I need to remember that God works his power best in my weakness. And I am weak, but he is making me strong and helping me to see my weakness so I rest in his power.

        • Heather MacFadyen

          oh yes! And believe it or not the morning of the day you posted this comment, in the devotional I’ve been working through (“Living So That” by Wendy Blight), the focus of that day was “his strength in my weakness”. “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corin 12:9). And “rest” in the Greek means “to spread a tabernacle over”…meaning we can rest in His power (like you said) as His power rests/covers over us. Boom! Good stuff!!

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