"Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God."
Romans 8: 5-8
It was an interesting conversation. The fifth-grade girl in front of me explained her problem clearly--she needed to make a new friend at her new school. This was difficult, she explained, because while people say you should have many friends, she did not go for that. What she needed was just one friend that was only hers--someone she could hang out with all the time, who would always be there for her. She had not really had that kind of friend before-- in fact at her old school the whole friend thing had become pretty messy all around. She knew what she needed, she reiterated. For some reason, it just hadn't been working.
When I asked her who Jesus was to her, she mentioned that He was her Savior, citing clearly the day she asked Him to forgive her sins. "Oh," I said, "then that was the day that changed everything." We went on to discuss that as Christians, life is not about what we want anymore. It is about what God has for us--what He calls us to, and how He tells us to love Himself and others through the way we live. We talked about how we can live out His plan and purpose by looking at things this different way.
As we talked, Romans 8: 5 flashed like a neon sign in the dark corners of my mind. How do I walk out a Spirit-filled mindset? As I move through my days, do I take truly things captive to Christ, or do I see them through my flesh? Do I look at my hopes, dreams, and desires through the mindset of what God has for me, or am I boxed in by the specifics I have defined? Do I respond to life's pressures by asking what God has for me ? Or am I too tripped up in the "why is this happening" question to see beyond the mess at hand?
My young friend did not particularly appreciate the perspective switch I suggested. Perhaps she had come to my office hoping I would orchestrate seating assignments to her advantage, or make sure she had the partner she desired for her History project. She seemed more interested in manipulating the specific details of her school situation than in growing and learning to be a better friend through it. She would like the quick fix, thank you, with minimal investment or pain on her part.
After my fifth-grade sister left, I sat at my desk and smiled. My mindset so often resembles hers, even with the benefit of so many more years! I recalled how many times I have asked God to change the specific details of my circumstances--to organize them according to my plan, for my benefit. I pondered the few times I asked God how I should grow in the place He has planted me. Some of my current struggles bubbled up, and I realized I have not asked God what He wants me to learn through them. I have just aked Him to take them away.
Jesus has an incredible way of using all things for good when we are called according to His purpose. A fretful ten year-old in a crumpled school uniform can prove an excellent mirror, when I have the eyes to see.