This morning I woke up before my alarm went off. Usually that’s a very sweet thing- getting to just rest naturally, knowing that, when my pre-programed song started playing, I would actually be awake enough to roll out of bed. Not this time.
This morning, 9 minutes before my ETA (Estimated Time of Alertness) I was doused by a large bucket of bad attitude, in the form of my 3 and 6 year olds yelling at each other at the top of their lungs. Needless to say, the morning did not start off well.
Now, being 39.5 weeks pregnant, and fully aware of my minuscule cache of energy that must last me all through the day, I fought HARD to maintain my composure- keeping the air of “that mom” who has it all together in the sweetest demeanor under the most aggravating circumstances. I’ve found that getting inwardly frustrated (much less outwardly mad) is exhausting. Unfortunately, I’ve also discovered that fighting that anger can sometimes take even more energy.
I managed to keep myself from exploding for an hour- just enough time to get myself ready for the day (fastest shower ever), getting the kiddos fed and prepped, making honey’s lunch, tossing the kids in the car, getting my husband to work (almost on time), and making it safely back home in the pouring rain, despite the myriad of idiot drivers who were picking on me the whole trek.
By the time we reached the parking lot of our apartment complex, the children- though loud- were happily playing, but I was spent. I sat in the driver’s seat and stared at the rain pouring down the windshield and knew I needed a plan. I needed to kill this bad attitude right away, else I’d be the other “that mom.” You know, the gal at the park who’s screaming at her children with the vengeance of a harpy, prompting you to mentally calculate the necessity of summoning CPS.
My calling is to reflect Jesus, and I can’t do that with a bad attitude. So I needed a plan. And, in the way that only Jesus works, I was reminded of our family’s memory verse. We’re memorizing the book of Philippians, and this section from chapter 4 came to mind:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if anything is excellent, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about such things. What you and learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things. And the God of peace will be with you.
And there was the answer; there was The Plan. Let me break it down for you with “The 5 Rs”.
“What?!! You want me to rejoice in the midst of this bad attitude cloud hovering over my every thought and action?” Yes. That’s exactly right.
This very moment has been ordained by your loving Savior to mold you more to His likeness. He has shaped this hard day specifically for you, that you might better understand his love for, and grace towards you. This hard time is a gift. Perhaps a painful, excruciating, annoying gift, but it has been formed for your good. When the God of the universe gives us something- anything- our reaction should be a heart of rejoicing.
And no, I’m not going to promise that you’ll feel like rejoicing. But a heart of joy is not based on circumstance. Joy is not contingent on comfort. Joy is a choice. And Paul is reminding the Philippians that rejoicing is a command. We must choose to rejoice in this moment, not only because this moment is truly is a gift, but out of love for our Father we must accept His wisdom and His will with joy.
“Um… I am being reasonable! Life is hard, these kids are driving me nuts and I can’t handle it!” Sounds logical, right? Well, no. Essentially we’re saying that we are unable to keep from sinning because some children are being naughty and life is hard.
Woah, sinning??! Yes. Our bad attitude is a result of pride, believing that we deserve a certain level of comfort, regardless of what Jesus has planned for us. A bad attitude is essentially whining to God, an expression of our lack of trust in His plan.
Reasonableness is defined as a person having sound judgement; being fair and sensible. Being reasonable means that you know what is true, and you base your thoughts and actions upon that truth.
So then, what is true? The truth is that we are weak, tired human beings, who tend to absorb the crankiness around us. But that doesn’t have to be the case.
Picture a damp sponge. If you drop it into a salt-water puddle, the sponge will quickly soak up the liquid until it is so full it is unable to hold any more. On the other hand, if you started out with a sponge that was completely full of clear water, and it was then placed into the salty puddle, there would be no room in the sponge for the salt to creep into.
We are that sponge. If we have just enough Jesus to keep us spiritually ‘damp,’ then we will quickly soak up the impurities of the world around us. If, however, we are completely filled with Jesus, then there is no room in our thought process, emotions, or actions to absorb anything else.
Jesus is our logic. Jesus is our truth. Jesus is our reasonableness. Romans 12:2 puts it quite simply:
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Jesus knows that life is hard. He knows that we are constantly pulled towards sin in one form or another. And yet, He has promised us a way out every time.
No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to (wo)man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. (1 Cor 10:13)
There is always a way out. There is always a Sweet Rescuer who delights in saving us from sin. Sometimes, though, that way out is not obvious to our tired, sin-bashed thought processes. And so we ask Jesus to show us the way through. There is no need to be anxious about anything- not health, attitudes, finances, the future, anything. BECAUSE THE LORD IS AT HAND.
But here’s the catch: When we ask for anything, we must ask with thanksgiving. Did you catch that part of our Philippians passage?
…do not be anxious about anything but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
So instead of merely saying, “Lord, take this hard circumstance away!” We must instead thank Him first for it.
Thank you, Jesus, that I have the opportunity to respond rightly to my children’s poor behavior. Please give me the discernment to know how to respond and the strength to do so, that they might see You reflected in me.
Thank you, Jesus, for this illness. Please allow me to better understand your strength in my weakness. Allow me to encourage others who are also struggling with their health.
Thank you, Jesus, for this difficult financial time. Please help me be content and wise with that which you have given me, and teach me to trust in your sovereignty.
Thank you, Jesus, for my broken heart, for now I better understand that people will fail me. Please help me to clearly see your faithfulness, and to cling more tightly to your love.
At this point, our mindset must be on that which is true. Who is God? Who are we? Who/what is encouraging our poor behavior? How should we respond rightly?
Temptation is not a sin. It is what we do with that temptation that will define our sinful status. Will we dwell on the trouble? Or combat it with Jesus’ strength? Will we focus on the discomfort? Or praise Jesus for ordaining the situation? Will we retreat/explode? Or will we reflect Jesus?
When our thoughts are focused on truth, God’s truth found in Jesus, then our actions will naturally be an extension of what is true. I personally would love to have my every action based on what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, or worthy of praise.
In the span of 4 verses Paul mentions twice that God’s peace is readily available.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus… And the God of peace will be with you.
These are if-then statements, however. The first is based on our joy, reasonableness and communication with God, and the second is based on our right thinking and our right actions (patterning our behavior on how Paul lived).
To Sum Up:
That’s the process to curing any bad attitude. The peace that comes from Jesus is abundantly sufficient to overcome any poor thoughts or behavior.
Practically speaking, you may need to set the kiddos in front of a Netflix show and curl up in bed with a cup of coffee in order to reclaim your train-wreck of poor thinking. At least, that’s what I had to do! When I emerged two Clifford episodes later, I was once again a (fairly) nice, reasonable, generous mommy. I was still tired, but I was able to tap into a strength deeper than my own.
May you receive peace to overcome your bad attitude, and, in the process, reflect Jesus to those around you!