When is the last time you bumped into an old friend from high school? Was it a pleasant surprise? Or not so much? Did you part friends? If not, are you still holding a grudge because they stole your high school sweetheart away or kicked your butt in a wrestling match?
Are you the same person now that you were then?
Obviously your experiences have dinged and dented and molded you along the way, whether it’s been five, twenty, or forty five years since the glory days. But our characters and personalities are set by the age of eight for most, and stick with us throughout life, no matter our circumstances, our lifestyle, or cultural norms. We can’t change that.
But what’s your outlook like? What’s your attitude like at this point in your life compared to how it was in high school?
You may have a wrinkle or two, or you cover as much of your aged, sun-damaged skin as possible. You maybe have a few grays or you’re more salt than pepper. Maybe a baby on the way or even your fifth grandchild, but you still feel like you’re a kid faking a grownup life sometimes, no matter your age. Am I weird because I feel that way?
What if you got out of high school and didn’t go to college, sowed too many wild oats in too many fields, and maybe ended up in trouble with the law?
Maybe you even spent some time incarcerated.
What kind of growth did that encourage for you? What was your attitude like then?
For many that kind of trouble is exactly what is needed to set them on the straighter, narrower path and set their sights on living a life that contributes. For others it breeds more rebellion, self-destruction, a lifetime of bad choices and the fallout that follows.
Why the difference? What makes people chew and swallow and digest life experiences differently?
Why does adversity cause upward growth in some and disastrous outcomes in others?
I sure can’t answer that for anyone but myself. Everyone has different circumstances. But everyone also has the opportunity to use theirs for good or bad, depending on the attitude one carries in their heart.
Always having been upbeat and energetic, maybe even bullish at times, it is difficult for me to understand people that are always victims, always blaming someone or something for their horrible lives.
Who cares who’s to blame? Just fix it! You only hurt you if you don’t. And be real. Most of the time there is no one to blame but you anyway. You don’t get to wallow in self-pity, though. It’s like the man at the pool in Bethesda. He spent thirty-eight years wallowing because he couldn’t make it to the magic waters every time they stirred. No one would help him and he was too pathetic and weak to crawl to the pool and roll in.
Jesus approached him and asked if he wanted to get well.
“Afterward Jesus returned to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish holy days. Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda, with five covered porches. Crowds of sick people—blind, lame, or paralyzed—lay on the porches. One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?” “I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.” Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!””
John 5:1-3, 5-8 NLT
Why did Jesus ask him if he wanted to get well? Of course he did! Or did he? Some of us are more comfortable sitting in our own feces. Easier than the struggle to get up and DO something about it.
I believe you reap what you sow and that attitude is everything. I learned that as a young adult selling magazines door-to-door. Your attitude will make you or break you. You can have all the looks, brains, and courage to succeed, but if your attitude sucks it will all cave in on you eventually.
A bad attitude. A huge ego. Haughty pride and a desire to succeed at all costs…all the marks of the person that cannot surrender and do life God’s way.
We recently embarked on our annual road trip to spend time with family and help pull off our daughter’s fabulous wedding! What a pleasant surprise one Sunday, to find my husband’s dear, old friend at a tiny church up the road.
A man and his wife, transformed by Christ several decades ago, while both serving time for blue collar crime.
We had the chance to spend some time together that day, then again a couple days later. We girls learned about each others’ lives. The boys got caught up. Lots of memories there. And although they are many years ahead of us in their Christian walk, the transformation remains alive and ongoing for all of us who desire to please God. There’s an uncanny connection between those who “earnestly seek Him.”
Whether you are yet unborn, an infant, or a toddler in your walk, or a full-grown and knowledgeable Christ-follower, the struggle to stay the path, keep the attitude in check, and live in His peace goes on minute by minute, day by day, week after week, over peaks and through valleys. And we cannot do it on or own strength. We need His Spirit in us to win the daily battles. One day at a time.
“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”
Philippians 4:13 NLT
I feel so close to God at times the air around me reverberates His presence. Other times I sense a wall between us, a blockage of that open channel of communication. That’s what happens when we stray from our “rightness” with Him and our attitude goes sour. When something has caused us to feel ill will towards another, or the need to retaliate, it blocks our peace.
Lately there have been incidents that I have allowed to get under my skin. My attitude has curdled and smells bad, and my peace has been blocked. I don’t like it when I let this happen, but once the souring begins I have little control over it despite being aware of how it debilitates. It has to do with my prideful intolerance of injustice, lies, and unethical people. It gets me riled and that spirit of disdain and rage pulls me away from my Lord, out from under His wings. Once I’m exposed to the elements the old me – with the bad mouth and bad attitude – comes to life and satan, the great manipulator – gets a foothold that is tough to break free from.
It’s not until I acknowledge my bad thoughts, feelings, and behavior that I feel right with Him even a little bit.
If I go a step further and try to reconcile a situation the static goes away and the peace returns.
And that’s all He really expects from us, you know. To be “pure of heart,” which doesn’t mean we’re to be perfect and never have another bad thought or another fit of rage. It just means we need to confess our crap! Acknowledge our mistakes and do our best to make things right, which is only possible with a posture of humility, a change of attitude.
He certainly knows we will make more mistakes. But as we mature in our relationship with Him our desire to please Him changes the way we think and feel and act towards the rest of His kids. So most of the time, instead of stirring the pot, we choose to make peace, even when our flesh screams for revenge.
Does it always work? Nope! But the more we connect with our Maker, look up and breathe, let the Holy Spirit take over, the more we become like Jesus and the better we handle things.
Even Jesus did not tolerate injustice, manipulation, and lies, but He handled it better than we do. He exhibited self-control. That’s one slice of that fruit of the Holy Spirit that evades me often. Always a work in progress.
“Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, ‘I will take revenge; I will pay them back,’ says the Lord.”
Romans 12:17-19 NLT
I have yet to hear the detailed testimonies of the couple I speak of here. I know that he used his mistakes all those years ago to minister to inmates locally and still does, all these years later. Isn’t that so awesome?
Old friends with new lives…and godly attitudes!
He said he sees a change in his old friend, too. It made me smile to hear him say that. A softer, gentler guy is emerging. Having known each other so well as teenagers, even after 40 plus years of not seeing each other, he could sense it.
A co-worker said that to me several years ago, when I was just beginning my journey with the Lord. She is a seasoned and well rounded Christian, a friend of Jesus’, and she said, “What’s up with you? Something is different. Are you in love or something?” I laughed and said, “You could say that!” Then I told her I had just been baptized at my church two days before. She got so excited she cried! It brings tears to my eyes just telling you 🙂
I love that we can be old and there’s still time for attitude adjustments. We can still learn and grow and people that know us can see it. Even our kids! Isn’t that so cool? I feel like that kid faking the grownup life! With still so much to look forward to!
“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.”
Matthew 5:14-15 NLT
Peace in Christ.