This morning, I remember how critical and judgmental I can easily become. I don’t love; I argue. For days, I think to myself: Does this attitude or activity help me love Jesus and others more? Does it divide or bring together?
I remember how, way back in graduate school, I experienced the overwhelming realization that finding what’s wrong came easily, like a default state of my heart, and something the culture around me cultivated. Every conversation began with complaint and criticism. So I wondered what it would mean to find the good, to cultivate what was right and working, and to seek out the best. This task didn’t come naturally; it felt like an optimism that went against my nature.
But then came marriage and the best advice from counselors:
Believe the best about your spouse. See the best.
I liked to find what was wrong and disappointing, what was failing and negative. But I took seriously the task of believing the best of him–and choosing to see the best. The environment of our marriage changed; it glowed bright in Holy Spirit joy and love.
But then came depression and anxiety and the best advice from counselors.
Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to live the life God was asking me to and find Him in every moment. But I began to take seriously what it meant to find the good thing, the beautiful thing, the thing that showcased Jesus every day. I learned to chase down love and hope every single day. The environment of my heart changed; the fruit of the Spirit danced inside me with love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, and self-control.
So for the Morning Pep Talk, just as my daughter’s words leak out the ordinary state of a disappointed heart and how she just knows how wrong this day will be, I tell her:
Oh, no! It’s not going to be this way. Not today! Girl! This day you can believe the best. You can see the best. It’s going to be hard, and it’s going to go against your nature, but I promise you that you will see the beauty of God at work. You will see the best in all people and in the teacher’s lessons. You will believe the best first. You will cultivate the best first. You will follow the best and see how it bears fruit. It’s easy to complain. It’s easy to fret. No! Not you! Not today. Today is the day you will believe the best is coming. You will believe it and see it!
God, who is abounding in love, can open our eyes to believe the best and see the best. I think of Philippians 2:14-16: “Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. Hold firmly to the word of life. . . “
Stand firm. Shine brightly. Believe and see the best. I think, when we cultivate the best first, we may find it overtakes the whole environment.