“Je pense, donc je suis.”
As a mediocre French enthusiast, I have always preferred Decarte’s French writings and most famous phrase, “I think, therefore, I am.”
While not a mathematician, I am a thinker. If I were to say what I have spent most of my life doing, it would have to be pondering. If I were to say where I have spent the majority of my time thus far, the answer would be inside my own head. Our consciences are the sum total of our thoughts and ideas. In other words, the very nature of our existence consists of our thoughts. Jesus said it this way, “Where your treasure is, there your heart is also.”
The being of the mind exposes itself in the time it gives certain things. The way we think is who we are in actuality. The manner and message through which we filter everything in the world around us not only shows us but also molds us into ourselves. If this is the case, and not a random oddity of my own invention, then we would do well to manage our minds and how we speak inside our heads.
As a student of Christian Scripture, I learn continually about the mind and its place in steering my life, passions, resolutions, focus, and ultimately my joy. “Slaying sadness” is impossible by just continuing in the same disciplines that create havoc and a change of thought is required. So, what can we do to change our thinking and how do we know we need to?
Listen to how you think and speak. Focus on the message of your heart and you’ll discover that your passions are not necessarily the things you long for, but rather the things you think about. When we discover where we focus the majority of our time and energy on thought, we will almost always develop a deeper understanding of what matters and what bothers us. Get yourself an index card and carry it with you for a few days. Every focused thought that races through your mind will have a theme, find it and write it down.
Pay the Clock
I was taught over seventeen years ago to identify things that I need to consider and make a date with the thinking. So, I will jot down a few thoughts that need attention and then calendar a time to sit down and contemplate, often in writing, the things on my mind. If I don’t do this I will be in a constant state of distraction which makes me very unproductive and worse, depressed if the issues are negative or serious in nature. At the end of the allotted time, I table the point and move on to the next task.
Pay it No Mind
When it is not time to think about things, I make a note as mentioned then I pay it no mind. Because I suffer in seasons with debilitating OCPD, I must maintain strict discipline on things like this, otherwise, I get physically ill for months. We do have the ability to manage our thinking and take control of when we give time to certain ideas. Scripture calls us continually to “renew our minds” and “think on these things” by allocating our thoughts to a certain direction or subject. This becomes second nature if we establish a habit of doing it in practice. Sometimes we just have to “forget about it.”
I have dozens more thoughts on this but I’m losing focus on my main point.
In the last few years, I have struggled more in my mind than ever before and found myself consumed by inner dialog in an attempt to overcome the thoughts and errors of other people. This is truly ridiculous activity on my part and will never produce results or joy. If we want to be joyful and productive people, then we have to participate in joyful and productive thinking. Depression and anxiety are real issues that cannot be ignored and they all start in the mind.
I want to spend every Friday talking about how to live life without fear, anxiety, and depression. And for the Christians reading this, the religious platitudes are doing more harm than good. I want to talk about those also. Consider the following points as we close out this genesis of a much-needed conversation.
Religious Platitudes are Harmful
Nike made it work with “Just Do It!” but that is not reality. No matter how many Nike shoes I put on my feet, I am not a runner or a jumper. Sure, I can kick and fight and ride a bike, and I can even (or used to be able to) climb rocks. I was never able to just do something because I did it. The same is true for folks who just want to say, “get it together” or “it’s a spiritual problem.” No, the spiritual problem is those who want to belittle other people’s emotions and illnesses as their fault. This is a lack of love, a lack of wisdom, and lack of understanding; all of which are unprofitable according to the Bible. [Stay tuned as I prepare to publish my deconstruction of evangelicalism]
Everyone Feels Something
You are not alone in your thoughts. While the combination of thoughts and feelings may be unique to your circumstances and personality, the raw emotions of fear, anger, anxiousness, etc. are universal among all people in the world. So, don’t be downtrodden by feeling isolated, I promise you that you are not. One of the greatest gifts of pain and suffering is walking with others in the process. There is a simple goodness in sorrow for me when I am not alone.
There is a Practical and Spiritual Remedy
I have spent the majority of my life moving from the depths of death and the liberty of joy. The difference is that during all of my own struggles, I have also had to carry the burdens of hundreds simultaneously. This gives me a very unique perspective on the war of our minds. While some may think that I have changed my focus, I have just changed the pictures that display my life-long mission. It’s just that as humans we often cannot see the forest for the trees just like we can “be” because we don’t know how to “think.”
The Spiritual remedies to matters of thinking have to do with the promises therein that partner with the practical disciplines that bring about the changes that we all desire for ourselves and others. When I say that I am the “slayer of sadness”, it is nothing more than to entreat my calling to shepherd the flock unto the joy of their Lord in a quick phrase. The report of hope is indeed the anchor of my soul and the message of this hope is my anchoring faith. (My moniker for 28 years)
As a teacher, advocate, mentor, and caretaker, I have to readily admit that I have struggled to maintain a resolve to keep simple the burdens before me. I cannot change anyone but I can teach them what it means to be free, not just in the soul, but in the mind. So, ideas-a-plenty make no difference if they are not productive in the lives of those who practice them. Thankfully, I have a full library of remedies that have been proven to win the day. As we journey through this life, it is always best to walk together with the right map guiding our path.
Do you need someone to walk with? Let’s join the already grand parade and march to victory! Let’s think rightly about what is ultimate.
Are you listening?