On Sunday Brent Harris delivered a great message on love. He even sang a line of the Beatles.
As he talked about what real love looks like he mentioned that while we can’t control our feelings toward someone, we need to align our attitudes and our actions with what is true. No matter what kind of person we are dealing with, they are loved by God and deserve from us the same grace we were given undeserved from the Father.
That dichotomy began to itch me: feelings vs. attitude. When I was a kid my dad would warn whiney or pouty me to “Fix the attitude.” He would never say, “Fix your feelings,” but he seemed to think I had some control over my perception of the situation. Of course I did because the fear of a spanking was, to me, worth what it took to get over myself in the moment.
|Trust me, when she’s teething, the Gremlin has a terrible attitude.|
Our feelings are unruly and untrustworthy. We can’t control them and we should not be led by them alone. They also make things very, very hazy. When people say “follow your heart” they forget that many a heart has led to murder, rape, adultery, child abandonment and a plethora of other degenerate actions by people doing what “felt right in the moment.” It’s just plain bad advice.
Our attitudes on the other hand, the way we perceive the world, are entirely manageable. I struggle with loving some people because… Well, they’re human. And they’re humanity shows. I can look at their selfishness as an offense and give them what I think they deserve (maybe trying to change them while seeing them as less than myself) OR I can see their selfishness as a deep need for God’s transforming love. I can see it as a reminder of my own selfish ways. I can see it as an opportunity to show them and others the kind of heart God has toward us that he would persist in love and fight to restore even the most self-centered among us. I can choose to see my selfish fellow-human as a beloved child of the God I adore. I can see that person as greater than myself and I may actually learn something from their strengths! That person can be a lost cause or a bookmark of grace. My attitude will determine how I treat him. My attitude will soften my heart toward her.
This pregnancy has brought with it a terrible attitude. I feel tired all the time and super sensitive. My perception is that I deserve a break and that Gabe shouldn’t do things that annoy me or hurt my feelings because I am doing a lot. Part of that perception is that he knows what will annoy me and hurt my feelings, but he does it anyway. He’s kind of evil when it comes down to it.
That, of course, is very foolish. My husband loves me and actually does try to give me breaks when he can see that I’m tired or worn down. And although he has admitted to trying to annoy me on occasion (I knew it!), I can guarantee he doesn’t try to do it when there are crazy amounts of hormones running around. This isn’t his first rodeo. So my poor attitude, which feeds my misguided emotions, is just a rotten, selfish excuse to snap at the man who shows me the most grace. I allow the cart to rule the horse when I should be taking the reigns and overruling the feelings that may not go away even with the right perspective.
Ew. Bad attitudes taste like poo.
And of course, after RJ was born I had a whole lotta feelings. I felt depressed. I felt scared. I felt unequipped. I felt evil. I felt like all I should do was leave. But by God’s grace (read: my mom, husband, and friends) I was able to keep the attitude of motherhood firmly within my grip. I would burst into tears and sob because I couldn’t feel any hope, but I would do it while actively loving my daughter. I would feed her and cry. I would hold her and cry. I would comfort her and cry. God showed me a supernatural love by using me to take care of her even when every ounce of my selfish heart told me not to.
At the end of the day, our attitudes should be informed by God. His Spirit, His Word, His example should adjust our attitudes as we start to see this desperate need for Him in the people around us and in ourselves. I can’t do anything directly about how I feel at any given moment, but I can align my heart with my Father’s and I pray that He will help me see His truth amidst all the “heart” I have going on.