You’ve got a crappy attitude, Mary. Stop it, I try convincing myself all the time. It never seems to work. For some reason when I feel anger, hurt, annoyance, pride, hanger, or any bad attitude I just can’t seem to work up the gumption to be thankful and kind.
But slurping down pho noodles, my wise grandmother told me something brilliant.
“I always knew that prophecy and healing were gifts from God,” she said. “But it’s all a gift. Joy, thankfulness, and peace are gifts from God.”
She said it was probably something silly that I already knew, but it’s not silly. It’s game changing.
“When I wake up in the morning feeling upset or stressed, I ask God for his joy,” Granny said. “It’s not something I can get from my own effort.”
I’ve never really thought about it that way. I know in my head that I cannot do any good without God, but when I’m sinful I always try to stop. I set goals and reminders. I try harder and pray harder. I try to exercise my self-control and endurance like I’m a marathon runner.
Just keep your mouth shut til your attitude changes, I think. But what if a good attitude is a gift? And what if all my struggling can’t earn that gift?
God’s the one that makes me holy, not me. Having God’s attitude isn’t like practicing a sport or working hard for success. God’s attitude and character are completely beyond the realm of human effort. Attaining God’s attitude is just as impossible as creating life out of nothing.
That’s amazing. Why do I try, try, try, and then kick myself and try harder when I fail? Why do I try to muster up non-existent gumption and beat myself up for not being good enough?
When I’m a hurt mess or angry and irritable, I just continue the cycle by trying to find the strength to knock it off. I don’t have the strength, I’m not selfless, and I’m not loving. Then I mentally flog myself for my multiplying character flaws. I grit my teeth and try harder.
It’s ridiculous. I’m not viewing God’s spirit as a gift.
“I’m sorry for being selfish and ungrateful, Jesus.” I should be saying. “I know I don’t have the ability to have your attitude. Please give me your perfect gift.”
I couldn’t beat myself up if I knew it was a gift. If I knew no amount of my effort could give me God’s attitude, I’d have to just repent for my sinfulness and be thankful for God’s gift. All my effort at salvation gives birth to wind (Isaiah 26:18). It’s like a worm trying to fly.