Beginning Prayer: Show me your way, teach me your path, guide me in your truth.
Passage for today: Romans 8:5-6
Have you ever been in a conversation with somebody, and your mind is completely somewhere else? Like, they’re telling you about their kids’ baseball game, and you’re like, “kid...sport...jersey...did I put that load of laundry in the dryer this morning?” They start explaining the most amazing home run. “Cause if I didn’t, it’s really going to smell by the time I can get home today, and he needed that tomorrow…” they interrupt you with more of their story, and they laugh, so you laugh, and all the while, all you can think of is how your son is going to put his jersey on it’s going to smell before he even starts playing in it, then everyone is going to nickname him stinky Pete, and he won’t be able to shake the nickname, and then it’ll make him insecure about how he smells, so he’ll quit the team and then he won’t get a scholarship to college, which means he won’t get a job and he’s going to live on your couch and eat all your food and you’re going to have to keep washing his clothes for the rest of his life, and then you’re like, “Oh my gosh, that’s amazing!! I didn’t even know your son played baseball!!”
Anybody? Just me?
Isn’t it amazing how hard it is sometimes to control our minds? It’s like when we try to focus, learn, grow and become, our minds have a mind of their own.
That’s why I love verses 5 & 6. Paul is still talking about the collision of what I want to do with what I actually do, and he says it starts with our minds. Let’s reread them real quick, “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.”
We know there is NO condemnation and NO obligation, but if we’re still not living like we’re free, we may not be listening to the leadership of the spirit in our mind. I like that this translation uses the phrase, “we have our minds set on” because there is action and intention here. It’s stronger than just what we think about--thoughts come in and out of our heads sometimes without any permission. But, this idea of what we “set our minds on” implies intention, focus and preoccupation.
It reminds us that we may not have much control over what thoughts come into our heads, but we do have control over which ones stay. My friend Debbie Breaux explains it like this, “I can’t stop a bird from flying over my head, but I don’t have to let it build a nest in my hair.”
When we listen to the leadership of the Holy Spirit, we have an opportunity to take control of our minds. In 2 Corinthians 2:10, Paul says, we can, “take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.” I like that imagery he gives us here--almost like the ability to snatch a thought as it comes through and ask... “Is this true? Is this what God says? Is this right? Is this what His Word says? Is this pure? Is this who He has created me to be?”
Part of our transformation process is learning how to surrender the control of our minds to the leadership of the Spirit.
Here’s some helpful tools to learn how to reset our minds:
GET STILL. I know, I know. I hate being still too. I know, I know, ain’t nobody got time for that. I know, I know...if you get still, you won’t get anything done. Here’s the thing about stillness--all those reasons that keep us from it are the reasons we need to do it. Stillness is the significant act of recognizing that God is God, and we are not. It slows us down to listen to the wind, the car driving by, the ticking clock; which then teaches us to listen to our friends, to our boss, to our teacher, to our parent, to God. It’s the practice of being OK with quiet; it is the single most important practice I do that helps me remain present in my relationships and life.
FILTER. I have a friend who said to me the other day, “just because you have a thought, doesn’t mean it’s true.” It was so profound to me because I realize how many times I think that I have to believe what my mind tells me. By using my brain and knowledge of scripture, I can actually use my mind to ask myself if what I am thinking is even true. Does it line up with what God says about me? Does it line up with what God says about the way He wants me to live? Remember our game two truths and a lie? Sometimes I even have to make a list of what I’m believing that isn’t true (“I’m never going to get better”), and put the truth next to it, (“This is a process and everyday I take a step, I am growing.”) Fight to find the truth. Fill your mind with the truth. You are smart; let the Spirit combine what you know with what you do to make you wise.
RECLAIM OUR IMAGINATION. When my daughter was little, she was waking up nightly afraid of bees swarming in her room. For several nights I tried explaining that there were no bees, that she was safe, that she didn’t have to be afraid. And then one night, I realized that my daughter’s giant imagination is one of her biggest gifts, so instead of fighting it, why not just use it? So, when she cried out to me, afraid of the bees, I went in her room and gave her an imaginary net that was made for catching bees. I had one too, and together, we laughed and jumped around her room until we caught every single bee. She went back to sleep, and never had the nightmare again.
I think so many of the struggles we have with anxiety, fear, insecurity, come from a misuse of our imaginations. We imagine scenarios where something terrible happens to us or someone we love, so we live in fear and worry. We imagine being rejected, so we beat people to the punch and act defensive and irritable. We imagine conversations, so we get angry and overcome, but the actual person never actually said the thing we’re upset about. I think this is just a simple misuse of our creative brain. What if we let the Spirit reclaim that? What if instead of imagining things that made us fearful, annoyed, anxious and self-conscious, what if we imagined good. What if we literally imagined God fighting for us--like a big, strong, capable God with tattoos and a flaming chariot--going to battle for us with an army of angels? Or what if we watched and even giggled a little at the idea of Him plucking the thoughts out of the thought bubble above our head. Sometimes I even just picture God laughing at one of my jokes (because He thinks I’m HILARIOUS) or sometimes I just picture catching His eye in a moment when I need Him, and I can’t tell you how powerfully it recenters me to His love. Who knew that some of your struggles could be because you have an incredibly creative mind? How could reclaim your imagination and use it to connect you back to truth today?
Sometimes we think our mind is our worst enemy, but if we will set our mind on listening to the leadership of the Holy Spirit, I believe it can become on of our biggest allies in our growth.
God, today I surrender my mind to you. Help me stay fully present and aware to new ways of thinking. Help me listen to my thoughts and ask myself if they line up with your truth. And help me be fully present when people are talking to me; whether a child or grown-up, store clerk or sister, someone difficult or someone easy—help me be fully present. Help me see where you’re working in the world and join you there today. Thank you for my mind. Please use it for your glory today.
Meditation was originally God’s idea; the idea of stillness and sabbath is part of what He knows we need. He modeled it from the beginning of time when He created the earth, taking a day of rest. The Psalmist talks about it when he says, “Be still and know that I am God.” And Jesus, God in physical form, often broke away from people and their expectations of Him to be alone and present with God. Take some time to get away today to be still and quiet before God. If you need help getting your mind to slow down and be present, check out Abide, which is a meditation app. Give it a try if you want help in being still.
(See if you can commit to memory, or commit to remember, this verse this week.)
“If your sinful old self is the boss over your mind, it leads to death. But if the Holy Spirit is the boss over your mind, it leads to life and peace.” (Romans 8:6, NLV)