It was not a good start to the week. My baby had been fussy all weekend long, waking multiple times during the night, which is unusual for him. I was exhausted from lack of sleep, and his crankiness during the day was not fun to deal with under such circumstances. Then on Sunday evening, my fifth grader started complaining that his ear hurt. That night was his turn to be up multiple times, crying because of pain in his ear. Come Monday morning, I loaded them up and hauled them off to the doctor, to find that both had rip-roaring ear infections, and that my ten-year-old’s eardrum had actually burst. My four-year-old had fluid in her ears but it wasn’t infected, but that evening she started complaining that she had “crumbs” in her ear. Off to the doctor we went again the next morning. No, she didn’t have an ear infection. She had strep. Lovely. With three sick kids, a house full of germs, and myself going on zombie hormones to begin with, it was shaping up to be a pretty awful week.
The irony of the situation is that barely a week before I’d been at a restful and relaxing pastors’ wives retreat. Our speaker had introduced to us the concept of God’s “replacement tools,” godly attitudes to replace our old mindsets. Our theme verse for the weekend was Romans 12:12- “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” But the verses surrounding that verse are chock full of other nuggets of wisdom. In fact, Romans 12:9-21 is titled “Marks of the True Christian” in my Bible. We read through these verses and made lists of God-given tools to replace the attitudes of the world. Instead of hate, choose love. Instead of despair, hope. Rather than curse others, pray a blessing upon them. Pick humility over pride. The list goes on and on. Sounds great, doesn’t it? But here’s the thing. In and of ourselves, we aren’t going to automatically reach for the replacement tools. It’s far too much “fun” to wallow in self-pity or bear a grudge or play the part of suffering martyr. Our sinful human nature wants to hold onto these things for some reason. Yes, God offers alternatives to our sinful inclinations, but only HE can give us the power and desire to actually use those alternatives.
What in your life needs replacing right now? Are you nursing a grudge against someone? Are you complacent in your prayer or devotional life? Greedy with your time or your money? Do you tend to fall into despair? Are your thoughts impure? Have you gotten pretty good at, ahem, complaining? Maybe your list looks different from mine, but we have one thing in common. No matter what sinful behaviors we struggle with, God offers a replacement tool. But He offers something else as well. Forgiveness. Even if we’re serious about replacing old attitudes and praying for God’s strength to do so, we won’t succeed every time. We will still revert to our old choices and mindsets. And God offers forgiveness through His Son, Jesus, each and every time.
So what, exactly, does this replacement thing look like in real life? I’m glad you asked. Let’s go back to my earlier example. Yes, my baby had an awful weekend for sleep, but I can be thankful he’s usually a great sleeper. Two of my children had terrible ear infections, but I was able to get a doctor’s appointment at 9:15 on a Monday morning with no advance notice. I’d say that’s pretty incredible. And despite waiting nearly an hour for the antibiotics at the pharmacy, I am exceedingly thankful that we have medicine so readily available and at a reasonable enough cost. The next day, I was able to get another morning appointment for my daughter and more antibiotics, and by that Wednesday, everyone was back in school already. I’m thankful for disinfecting wipes to kill germs, washing machines to clean sheets and pillows, and the chance to scrub down the bathrooms in an effort to get rid of germs in the house. I’m grateful neither of my other two children got sick at all, despite the fact that my seven-year-old shares a room with her four-year-old sister, and that strep is terribly contagious. And I’m glad that neither my husband nor I caught anything, either. Come to think of it, it really wasn’t such a terrible start to the week after all. Quite the opposite, actually. It was a reminder of how incredibly blessed I am.