I am not saying “two” is easy. It has its challenges. Grace is constantly testing her boundaries for what is and is not permissible. She is no different than any other two year old in her use of the melt-down temper tantrum to deal with life’s displeasures. But as my good friend Debbie says, “civilizing people is hard work,” and it is here in the two’s we begin that work of transformation. When Grace has a melt down we follow the “Containment Policy” (Yeah- kind of like the old Truman Doctrine of Post World War II: don’t let the “Evil Empire” spread any further, but instead this is: don’t let the “evil tantrum” expand beyond certain boundaries!) We follow the advice of parenting expert John Rosemond (Author of Making the Terrible Two’s Terrific) who says when the tantrum comes— the kid goes! So when Grace begins a tantrum she goes to “containment.”
We have a special spot in the house we call “The Attitude Adjustment Room” where she is placed until she regains control of herself. We never do it in anger. It’s not a punishment. We simply say “Ok- you need an attitude adjustment. You can come out when you feel better.” I have been amazed at how well this works and at how quickly her temperament transforms. In fact, she has come to the point where as she begins to throw a tantrum we ask; “Do you need to go for an attitude adjustment?” and she will wail out “YESSSS, PLEASE!” The other day she began to explode with anger and I asked if she needed to go to her tantrum spot. “YEAH!” she cried as she voluntarily began walking to the designated tantrum space. I was ushering from behind, as she sobbed sucking in air she said, “Mamma, I’m goin’ ajusmen’!”
I have to tell you I belly laughed at that one. It was a “kids say the darndest things” moment, but moreover a real epiphany. She clearly understood her limits and her needs. She knew she was not handling herself well and needed to be removed in order to gather herself together and redirect her attitude… and she went willingly. After but a few moments her tantrum had subsided and she called for me “Mama, I feel better now!” All smiles she returned to the family room to enjoy the company of Mama and Daddy. And then I got to thinking… man, we could all benefit from practicing this! Aren’t there times when we need some attitude adjustment? When our tempers and our personal states of rebellion dictate a need for us to withdraw and remove ourselves from being a force of destructive nature, or when our own tempers or emotional demeanors (be it despair, grief, fear or anger) need “containment” so the evil does not spread around like a domino effect? I know it’s true for me! But where do we go when we are in desperate need of an “attitude adjustment?”
There is one place we can go with the assurance of relief from any emotional ailment. Jesus tells us to pray to our Father who sees in secret and He will reward us. (Matt 6:6) When we find ourselves in any emotional pit, the place where we can get pulled out is in our personal “attitude adjustment” space where we meet alone with the Lord. In this space we can grab hold of him and He will pull us out and transform our condition.
I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. (Psalm 40: 1-3)
Commentators believe this Psalm was written by David about some inward disquiet and spiritual despondency—in other words, David needed an “attitude adjustment!” And for that he went directly to the Lord. He had the full expectation that the Lord would calm his disquieted spirit as he waited patiently. This is important for us to keep in mind as we dive into our own “attitude adjustment” prayers with the Lord. We must go like David (and like Gracie) — willingly. We must also recognize that our going to the Lord for a transformation of spirit is not a magic wand waved to immediate makeover, (although it is bound to be the authentic “Extreme Makeover!”) In our quiet moments with the Lord he works on us. We must work with him, while we wait for the completion of His work in us. Our task is to wait patiently, believing, hoping, praying and expecting the flood of his peace to grip us and pull us out until the very moment it actually happens. When the transformation is complete we are standing on the rock, on solid ground, able to face whatever it was that threw us into that “pit” to begin with— and better still we face the world with a new song in our mouths, praising God. From this new place we can face that thing that threw us in the “pit” without a meltdown, temper tantrum, or without despondency, anger, envy or fear.
We all have those moments, daily. We are fooling ourselves to think we don’t. We live in a broken world and are subject to the failings of our own human nature. We are daily under attack, from without and from within. David describes the worldly and human condition we all face in Psalm 40:
For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me. Be pleased, O LORD, to save me…(Psalm 40: 12-13)
And rescue us he will. God alone can give us new strength and completely transforming our demeanor it is he who delivers us from any snare in our failing hearts. When we go to him for those failings we are not just delivered, but fully healed, and fully transformed. Could this be one of the very “rewards” Jesus refers to in Matthew 6:6, when we go and pray to our Father who sees in secret? I don’t know about you, but to me it sounds like more than a reward… it sounds like a real gift.
O LORD my God, I called to you for help and you healed me…. You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy… (Psalm 30: 2, 11)
Every sense of our troubled hearts should be directed to God for healing, every cry should be a cry to him that will give way to ease. Our grief, our distempered spirit, disquieted mind, disordered loves will be healed. We can safely take our failing hearts to the Lord—our angers, disappointments, despondency, grief, fear, even rage. When we go to him in earnest with every negative emotion we are spiritually dressed in sack cloth, begging him to loose them from us and clad us with joy… and He will. We will be totally transformed. Every time we come away from an encounter like this with God we can emerge like Gracie from “Attitude adjustment” saying “OK— I feel better now!” We go to Him a wailing toddler and emerge dancing to a new song.
So… is there a day we don’t need to go for a little attitude adjustment? I’m thinking for me… it’s every day! Several times a day!
So I pray: Father in Heaven, “adjust” me! I don’t want to rail away at the world. I want to dance through it!