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Questions From the Heart?

How Is Your Attitude? 


As far back as I can recall, I've always wanted to be a pilot! When I was about 17 I tried to enlist in the Royal Australian Navy so I could fly fighter aircraft in the Fleet Air Arm. However, my father was not at all keen on the idea and he refused to give parental permission.   But 27 years later, I was sitting in the pilot's seat and lined up on the runway ready to undertake my first solo flight as a civilian, I hasten to say! The seat next to me where the Flying Instructor usually sat was empty. My life-long dream was about to become a reality.


I again went through the final checks. Flaps set. Brakes on. Power to full. Release the brakes. Airspeed to 55 knots. Rotate. The little Cessna 150 lifted responsively and I was "up into the wild blue yonder"!   All the instruments in front of me needed to be monitored. But there was one in particular that had priority over all the others. It's called the Attitude Indicator. In the many weeks of training leading up to this very special moment, my Instructor had constantly asked me the question, "How's your attitude?" or advised me to "Watch your attitude". He was not referring to my mental disposition by making these comments. Rather he was alerting me to the critical importance of constantly checking my Attitude Indicator.  


This particular instrument indicates the position or the attitude of the aircraft in relation to the horizon. It indicates if the wings are straight and level. When the aircraft is turning, it indicates the degree of turn. I don't know if it is true of all aircraft but in my Cessna 150 the Attitude Indicator was right in the centre of all the other instruments. The other instruments had to be regularly checked but the Attitude Indicator had to be monitored constantly.  


If the nose of the aircraft became too high in relation to the horizon, it was possible for the aircraft to stall and suddenly drop which is not a nice experience especially if the aircraft is close to the ground (as is the case when taking off or landing). Equally, if the nose was too low the aircraft would lose altitude which could have unwelcome consequences if left unchecked!   "How's your attitude?""Watch your attitude?"  Time and again the instructor would use these phrases and program my mind to keep checking my attitude for the duration of the journey.  


The smarter ones reading this article can probably see where all this is leading. If we are to successfully navigate through life and complete the journey with a sense of "well done", we will need to regularly check whatever 'instruments' or measuring devices indicate how we are going so far as physical health, financial viability, emotional well-being etc. are concerned. Similarly, our mental disposition (attitude) will play a critical role in that whole journey and we need to find ways to monitor the impact that our attitude is making on our life and relationships.  


Some years ago I attended a Pastor's Conference where one of the guest speakers made this statement: "It's not issues that divide churches. Attitudes divide churches". Simple but profound. Since that conference I have repeatedly checked that statement in situations where churches were struggling with the dynamics of differences and division. The statement is absolutely true and accurate. Of course, we are here talking about wrong or negative attitudes.  


[Incidentally, let me just make a point here. In the Christian community, differences are OK. Divisions are not OK. Differences are part and parcel of diversity and unity and, when seen as such, they are to be welcomed and harmonized rather than feared and eliminated. Divisions, on the other hand, are usually the result of differences handled badly or immaturely.]  


But it's not just churches that can be divided like this. Family relationships can be split apart by wrong attitudes. So can workplace relationships. Likewise with political parties. Similarly with international tensions. In fact we can nominate any human relationship small or great and discover the truth of the statement; "It's not issues that divide relationships. Attitudes divide relationships".   Failure to realise this truth makes the resolution of differences difficult - if not impossible. If we are convinced that a particular issue is the problem and we focus upon the issue to the exclusion of the negative attitudes that the various parties bring to the discussion, those attitudes will keep sabotaging the possibility of resolution.  


The obvious question at this point is something like, "Who or what can provide us with the necessary insights that will help us monitor our attitudes?"   Within the context of Christian community and relationships, the Bible becomes a veryhelpful "Attitude Indicator". There are numerous passages that serve us very well in this regard. 1 Corinthians 13 (often called the love chapter) is something of a 'classic' in this regard. Equally, portions of Ephesians and Colossians are worth checking.   But the one that comes readily to mind is found in Philippians 2.  


Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one heart and purpose. Don't be selfish; don't live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself.Don't think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing.   Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had.Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God. He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form.And in human form he obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal's death on a cross. (Phil 2:2-8)  


Are you aware of a current tension or potential division in your experience at the moment? In your church? In your family? What would happen if the 2 parties embraced and implemented the underlined directives in the passage?   Just like an Attitude Indicator, these directives provide us with an objective point of reference as opposed to our own feelings which are subjective and not always trustworthy when it comes to evaluating any given situation.  


That reminds me of something else that my Flying Instructor programmed into me: "Always trust your instruments, not your feelings".  That's good advice for life, not just for flying!   To make his point more emphatically, on one occasion my Instructor told me to close my eyes as he made a left turn. He asked me to tell him when he had completed the turn and the aircraft was once again flying straight and level. I could feel the aircraft straighten and level out and I indicated that to him. "Open your eyes". We were still turning even more so! So much for trusting my feelings.   More than once I have been saved from relationally "crashing" by checking my attitude (and my feelings) against the objectivity of Scripture.  



How's your attitude?  Now that's a good question!    

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