Monday, April 18, 2011

be a joyrider

Let’s say you're taking the train home. If you were to get on the wrong train, it probably wouldn’t take you too long to realise it. After the first wrong station or so, you’d likely feel a little annoyed, dismayed, anxious even. And – unless you enjoyed wasting time or getting lost - if you had any sense at all – you’d get off as soon as you could and get on the right train.

It’s funny how we know how to do that, but when it comes to our thoughts… We get started on a wrong train of thought, and more times than not, we just stay on! The stupid part is, sometimes we’re actually aware that we’re going in the wrong direction, and we’re conscious that we’d better stop and get off quick before it’s too late – but we don’t!

What is it that makes us keep getting on those wrong trains, and then staying on? We start thinking of whatever our apparently negative situation is, and then we start embroidering it, adding our self-blame, our anxiety, our what-if thinking, and our negativity. We add on station after station of wrong thinking, until we’re so far gone that we don’t know how to get back where we should be. I imagine these wrong trains as rides out into the wilderness or to nowhere – they’re like a downward spiral into depression and despair.

And it’s one thing to go on these miserable rides once or twice, but to do it repeatedly? No sane person would keep taking the wrong train home every day, yet I think this is what many of us do with our thought life. We know that going in that wrong direction will only lead to misery and torment, and yet we get on anyway – out of habit, if nothing else. It’s almost as if we develop this perverse addiction to negativity. But how can we expect or hope for good, positive results in our lives if we keep on that way?

For me, I’ve found that one way to get out of that pointless round of going-miles-in-the-wrong-direction-and-then-struggling-to-get-back-to-the-right-one, is to consciously STOP myself the moment I’m tempted to start off on that wrong track. And I know from experience when I’m about to – it usually starts with “what if…” or “if only…” or some other non-joyful, non-helpful, non-victorious thing.

I can literally feel the joy oozing out of me the moment I start, I can literally feel my mouth going down at the corners, my shoulders slumping, I can literally feel myself getting tired, cranky, or short-tempered. Sometimes I even start first thing in the morning, when I’ve barely opened my eyes; somehow in that sleepy haze I’m more than able to start focusing on every apparently negative thing I can think of and even add to them with my boundless imagination. It’s a miserable ride.

So I actively STOP myself – really, I literally tell myself, “Stop it! Just STOP IT!” Remember Philippians 4:8? “… whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and is honourable and seemly, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on and weigh and take account of these things [fix your minds on them] (Amplified).

Right away, I ask God to help me, to give me the strength and grace to fix my mind on the right things. I ask Him to help me resist the temptations of worry, self-pity and negativity, and remember that I am more than a conqueror in Christ, and that He is faithful to deliver. The fact is, we are in control of what train we get on, for God has given us a spirit of power, a well-balanced mind, discipline and self-control (2 Tim 1:7) – we can choose our direction, our thoughts, we can decide whether or not to let ourselves go downhill and be ruled by our worry and negativity. If we actively get on the right train, filling our minds with the right thoughts, there just won't be room for the bad ones.

And then go do something positive, productive, joyful or plain fun.

From experience, I realise now that it helps a lot to keep close to God all the time, not just when I’m really desperate. If I try to walk closely with God all the time, then I find that it gets easier and easier to stop myself and get off that wrong train. In fact, it gets easier to avoid it altogether, because I'm already heading in the right direction. I actively remind myself that

"... the Lord [earnestly] waits [expecting, looking, and longing] to be gracious to you; and therefore He lifts Himself up, that He may have mercy on you and show loving-kindness to you. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) are all those who [earnestly] wait for Him, who expect and look and long for Him [for His victory, His favor, His love, His peace, His joy, and His matchless, unbroken companionship]!" (Isaiah 30:18). Isn't that wonderful?

As with any bad addiction, I think that resisting the temptation to give in to it when one is most tempted, is the best way to effectually beat it. Striving to establish the right mindset at all times really helps with this I think; if one establishes a good spiritual foundation in one’s everyday life, if one habitually walks in God’s love, joy and peace, it’s a lot easier to stop wrong thoughts in their tracks.

Colossians 3 for example is full of useful advice for this: “… set your minds and keep them set on what is above (the higher things), not on the things that are on the earth…

5So kill (deaden, deprive of power) the evil desire lurking in your members [those animal impulses and all that is earthly in you that is employed in sin]: sexual vice, impurity, sensual appetites, unholy desires, and all greed and covetousness, for that is idolatry (the deifying of self and other created things instead of God)...

8But now put away and rid yourselves [completely] of all these things: anger, rage, bad feeling toward others, curses and slander, and foulmouthed abuse and shameful utterances from your lips!

9Do not lie to one another, for you have stripped off the old (unregenerate) self with its evil practices,

10And have clothed yourselves with the new [spiritual self], which is [ever in the process of being] renewed and remolded into [fuller and more perfect knowledge upon] knowledge after the image (the likeness) of Him Who created it…

12Clothe yourselves therefore, as God's own chosen ones (His own picked representatives), [who are] purified and holy and well-beloved [by God Himself, by putting on behavior marked by] tenderhearted pity and mercy, kind feeling, a lowly opinion of yourselves, gentle ways, [and] patience [which is tireless and long-suffering, and has the power to endure whatever comes, with good temper].

13Be gentle and forbearing with one another and, if one has a difference (a grievance or complaint) against another, readily pardoning each other; even as the Lord has [freely] forgiven you, so must you also [forgive].

14And above all these [put on] love and enfold yourselves with the bond of perfectness [which binds everything together completely in ideal harmony].

15And let the peace (soul harmony which comes) from Christ rule (act as umpire continually) in your hearts [deciding and settling with finality all questions that arise in your minds, in that peaceful state] to which as [members of Christ's] one body you were also called [to live]. And be thankful (appreciative), [giving praise to God always].

16Let the word [spoken by] Christ (the Messiah) have its home [in your hearts and minds] and dwell in you in [all its] richness, as you teach and admonish and train one another in all insight and intelligence and wisdom [in spiritual things, and as you sing] psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, making melody to God with [His] grace in your hearts".

As Carlene Carter sang more secularly -

We won't turn back, we got some place to be
A better life ahead for the likes of you and me
Leave our sorrows behind
That was a bad old time we had
We're gettin' off a nowhere train

1 comment:

Fdoeppen said...

J, the Holy Spirit was sitting right next to you when you wrote these words.
I printed this post and I'm reading it over and over... you said everything I needed to hear, and need to do.
God bless you every day!


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