Friday, January 6, 2012

"How's Your Attitude?"

My mom used to ask me this when I was clearly not in a good mood. And my response was never, "Oh attitude is bad, isn't it? I hadn't noticed. Well, now that you pointed it out, let me just turn this frown upside down!"

I know my mom was just trying to 'snap me out of it'--but really all it did was make me feel angry for being judged, and guilty for feeling angry and ungrateful. I understand though--I don't like it either when people complain...especially my kids. I want their eyes to be 'opened' to just how good they have it, so they can appreciate and enjoy their life--and I get frustrated and angry when they keep whining about everything. But when my daughter was complaining about her eczema, and someone said, "Stop being so negative--God gave you eczema for a reason"...I really wanted to drop kick them.  Similarly, when my best friend told me about someone at church saying to her, "What is God trying to teach you that you are just not learning, that He keeps giving you disabled kids?"--I wished I could have drop kicked them too. But the thing is, I don't exactly disagree with either statement.

I've come full circle from believing God just designed egg and sperm to meet, and after that His hands are tied. (see "predestination" post. Don't worry, it's not so scary) I don't think His hands are tied at all...I think they are active in every second of our lives. I think our lives and all that happens in them is meaningful. But does that mean I think God "gave" my daughter eczema, or that he "meant" for my friend's children to be disabled?

This is where we really have to examine how we imagine God. Do we see an old man sitting on a throne with lightning rods in His hands, deciding who gets blasted and who doesn't? When bad things happen, is it because God doesn't love us anymore? It is because His wrath is being unleashed on our badness, or does He just not care about our suffering?  Because I no longer see God's anger (or wrath) as something separate from His love, (anymore than my own anger at my kids actions changing my love for them), I am more at peace with bad things happening. Maybe it is 'discipline', maybe it's testing--maybe it's can I know? The thing I hang onto is God's love is present, even in our suffering. I don't understand exactly how the physical and spiritual worlds interact, but regardless of how bad things look from our end, it does not mean God has lost control.  

Give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  Don’t suppress the Spirit. Don’t brush off Spirit-inspired messages, but examine everything carefully and hang on to what is good. Avoid every kind of evil.  Now, may the God of peace himself cause you to be completely dedicated to him; and may your spirit, soul, and body be kept intact and blameless at our Lord Jesus Christ’s coming. The one who is calling you is faithful and will do this. (1 Thes. 5:18-24)

As far as seeing everything that happens as 'God's will'...I most definitely don't believe that. The above scripture states that God's will is for us to give thanks for everything that happens--it does not say that everything that happens is God's will. Why in the world though, would we give thanks for the things that are bad?  

and be not conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, for your proving what is the will of God -- the good, and acceptable, and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

Giving thanks transforms our minds...I really think so. And when our thoughts are transformed, our souls are transformed. When this is completed, then we will be the example of what God's will is--a physical example, just like Jesus was. We are involved in this process of course--we are to "examine everything" and "hang onto what is good" and "avoid evil"...but who is the one bringing us through it all? The God of peace...and He is faithful, and He will do it. And that's why we can give thanks for everything...good and bad...because it all has potential to help in the transformation. So, I can encourage my daughter to endure her itches, as annoying and painful as they are, and I will tell her that God is with her in her suffering and understands and sympathies, and is loving her through it. It's not the same as saying "you better thank God for making you suffer so you can learn"'s more like, "I believe God, that you can take what is bad and transform it into good if we can trust you, and we will walk this road together". But make her feel guilty for having a bad attitude?  No thanks.