Pulling out of the driveway, something wasn’t right. Fwop, Fwop … Fwop, Fwop … Fwop, Fwop … It sounded like my car had a piece of cardboard jammed underneath. I was already late for my kickboxing class at the gym—shuttling a five and four-year-old out the door is at times as trying as keeping your Cougar Time class at bay the last week of school—and I just wasn’t in the mood for unpredictable predicaments. I stopped the car and got out to scope the scene. Flat tire. So much for kickboxing!
It was at that moment that I had a choice. I could wallow in my own self-pity, feel sorry for myself, and let it ruin my day. OR I could use this as an opportunity to show my boys what changing a tire looks like, maybe even letting them help out. Which is a scary thought by itself. Not my boys helping out. I’m talking about me changing a flat tire. Let’s just say that God did not bless me with the ability to be handy. I’m the guy that lets his wife do that stuff. I know, I know. Sad but true!
The boys lasted five minutes. My five-year-old held the tire. My four-year-old tried putting the lug nuts on his fingers like decorations. Then, after like five minutes, they both got bored and went in to play Legos. So much for that father-son bonding moment! Nevertheless, I pulled out the driver’s manual, jacked up the car, and changed the tire. It made me feel like a man! Even had a few grease stains on my fingers. And you can bet that when I called the wife to pick us up at Firestone, I felt like a kindergartner breathlessly saying, “Mommy! Look at what I can do!”
Stop right here and think about this one. Was that situation a prayer or a praise? How many times in your life have you encountered a situation where you wanted things to go one way, God sent them another way, and it turned out BETTER than what you ever expected? Ever been there before? When you think about it, almost every prayer request can be tweaked into a praise. All it takes is the right perspective.
The right perspective. The positive perspective. How do we get there? We can start by studying God’s truth in Philippians 4: 8: “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” All these things Paul speaks of have a common thread: they all lean toward the positive.
Studying that verse alone without context is somewhat poetic, but dig deeper. Study Paul’s life. In 2 Corinthians 11 Paul sounds off on what most would consider calamity-filled life. Shipwrecks. Beatings. Persecution. The man was stoned and left for dead! Plenty of his communication was written while behind bars, yet Paul makes it known in Philippians that he is content in every circumstance. This begs the essential question … Can we do likewise?
I can be content in summer mode now. Family time. More time to write. Time for friends. Vacation. Being content now is a piece of cake! Talk to me when I have 126 essays to grade. Talk to me when I am swamped in the doldrums of testing season. How about talk to me when I realize that my three worst behavior problems have somehow found their way into one class of mine. Can I be content then like Paul? I have to admit, my first impulse is NOT to break into song like Paul and Silas did in prison!
But I can garner a positive perspective. I can trust that God knows what is best for me and will not allow me to be tempted beyond my control. I can see the magic He works. Why not keep faith in that? How about this … Can you think back on the number of times God has pulled you through a prayer that actually could have been considered a praise. Hindsight is always 20/20. A few events from my own life come to mind now.
- My first year of teaching was abysmal. I floundered like a fish out of water, yet it was a praise by that it landed me in my current building where I have found a family away from home. I never would have thought I’d enjoy teaching 7th grade before that, but 13 years later, there is no other grade level I’d rather teach. (I’m weird like that.)
- My brother Curt was run over by humvee while serving in Afghanistan. HUGE prayer request! Little did I realize this catastrophe would actually let him be a part of my wedding as my best man, wheeling himself down the aisle. He still would have been deployed without the accident.
- Both my grandmothers died one day apart, one from years of battling Alzheimer’s and the other from a quick bout with cancer. Though it tore me up, the result was a godsend: my family grew closer together than ever before, rallying around each other for support.
- The darkest depression of my life knocked me senseless from 2010 to 2012, yet without being stripped of everything worldly that I clung to, humbled beyond belief, I would not be the man I am today. God used that depression to heal me, and I was baptized soon after. Saved forever.
- Plenty of more future events to come!
What about you? What are you going through right now that might seem like a prayer request but truly could be considered a praise? Think back on your life. How many times has God pulled you through? Has He not worked magic in your life? Write about it. Share it here as a reply to this blog to encourage others. Who knows? Maybe your story will inspire someone else to choose the positive perspective. 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18 says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Turn your prayer into a praise today!
(That perspective is alive in me every time I hear Hawk Nelson’s song “Diamonds.” One of my favorite lines in the song is, “It’s not what I hoped for/ it’s something much better.” What we hope for may not be in the cards, but what God hopes for is perfection. Listen to the song below.)