“Whatever is lovely, whatever is lovely, whatever is lovely.” I repeat the words to myself. Again and again, trying to ingrain them in my mind and, more importantly, in my heart.
David overhears me. “Sadie…why on earth do you keep saying that?”
“I’m trying to think about whatever is lovely.” That’s perfectly normal…right?
“What do you mean?” He asks, as he takes a seat on the nearest bench. I follow his lead and plop my books on the ground; all but one – my bible. I keep it close to me, hugging it as I squint against the sun to look at our small school and at all the kids that continue to stream through its doors. You can feel the excitement in the air – summer is here. It’s all anyone can think about; except me, that is.
I turn my attention back to David. “Here’s the thing,” I say. “Jennie was supposed to come spend a week with me and my family in Florida over the summer…except now she’s going with Molly instead, the same week! And it’s completely unfair. Honestly, I’m really frustrated with her.”
My friend is quick to respond. “Then say something to her! That’s not okay!”
“I can’t, David. Not yet, anyway. I need some time first. That’s why I keep repeating that phrase in my head. I’m trying to focus on “whatever is lovely” so that when I do talk to Jennie, I won’t feel resentment or be jealous. I want to be understanding, and forgiving, and most of all – kind.”
“I don’t get it, Sadie. What do those things have to do with being lovely?”
I giggle at the confused expression on his face. “Let me explain. So at church this week we were in Philippians 4:8, which says…” I quickly flip through my bible to find the scripture passage and then continue. “It says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” I didn’t understand, at first, what each one meant…especially “whatever is lovely”. I mean, if I told you to think about whatever is lovely, what would you think about?”
David thinks for a moment, then says, “I’d think of my grandma’s flower garden. Or maybe this girl that I have a crush on. Or my mom…she’s definitely lovely.” He laughs and gives me a big smile.
I smile back. “I would’ve thought the same thing too, but that’s not actually what Paul is talking about. I guess the best way to explain it is…okay, so as Christians we need to be setting good examples, inspiring good things, showing kindness and compassion towards others, etc. Right? But how can we do those things, if we are not thinking about those things? So when Paul says “whatever is lovely”, he means that if we set our minds and our hearts on good things…being nice, loving others, showing sympathy…then our actions will follow our thoughts. We will reap what we have sown. Does that make sense?”
David nods. “I think so, yeah. So when you keep repeating that phrase, it’s because you want to remind yourself to think about lovely things? So that when you talk to Jennie about how she’s hurt your feelings, you’ll be able to forgive her and be kind towards her? Instead of holding a grudge?”
“Exactly!” I exclaim. “We shouldn’t let someone else’s decisions control the way we think, or dictate how we react. If we could only set our minds on whatever is lovely, then our actions and reactions should reflect that. And in turn, we will be setting good examples for those around us.”
David folds his hands together, nodding in agreement, then says, “Why don’t we pray about your situation then, Sadie?”
“That sounds like a good idea.” I smile as he prays, and thank God for the lesson we’ve both learned.
Sadie isn’t perfect. Neither is David, or Jennie, or Molly. And neither am I. None of us are! So setting our minds and our hearts on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable is not an easy task. But it’s not impossible either. It is incredibly important to train our minds to think on these things, because every action we take and reaction we give reflects our thoughts. There will be time after time where we’ll find ourselves in situations where all we want to be, is angry. And all we want to do, is hold a grudge or refuse to forgive. And when those times come, we need to focus on what Paul is telling us in Philippians.
In this story, Sadie was clearly frustrated at her friend! But she knew that her frustration would lead to bad thoughts, and those thoughts could eventually harm her friend and the relationship they have. She wanted to show her friend forgiveness, instead of bitterness. Kindness, instead of jealousy. Love, instead of hate. She wanted to think on “whatever is lovely” and let those thoughts control her actions.
Prayer is going to play a huge part in this; I cannot stress it enough. But I know that often we feel as if prayer is not enough, or at least that we should be doing more. So here, take a look at this:
In James 1:19 it says, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”
Be slow to speak. Take your time and think. Ask yourselves some questions, like:
- What will happen if I do *this*?
- What will thinking *this* create?
- Will there be peace or strife?
- Will this cause harm? Or will it reap kindness?
- Will God be glorified if I do, say, or think *this*?
Write these down, or come up with your own challenging questions. Stick them to your mirror, or put them on your fridge. Let Philippians 4:8 become the verse you live by, so that no matter where you go, or what trials you face, your thoughts are on those things.
My challenge for you is this: Over the weekend, as you go about your life, adopt Sadie’s mantra as your own. “Whatever is lovely, whatever is lovely, whatever is lovely.” Just repeat it to yourself. Let it help your focus to be on love, and kindness, and compassion…on whatever is lovely.
Wherever you are, whatever you do. Think on these things.