holy training ground of the mind

Posted: January 14, 2014 in Uncategorized

Early 2011:  it was almost breakfast time, after which I would be heading out for my walk down Wilson Avenue to the women’s shelter, where I was a caseworker.  I was hurrying around, tending to last-minute details.  I was glad that my roommate was at work – that meant she wasn’t there to overhear me muttering over and over to myself – Stop it.  Stop it.  STOP IT.  Like some kind of Tourette Syndrome sufferer. 

This was my simple trick to interrupt my brain when it was trying to go where it had no business going – in this case, to romantic thoughts about one Mr. Gary Buchanan, who at this point was not my husband, not my fiance, not even my boyfriend.  He was just a friend and, absolutely unknown to him, also a major crush.  Since he worked in the dining room, every morning my thoughts rushed to him as I got ready for breakfast.  Since I had made a “no new relationships in the first year of community living” promise, I was fighting those thoughts with everything I had.  Stop it was both a command directed at my wandering and willful mind, and a plea directed at the only One who can fix things in me that I can’t fix.  Thus my “Tourette” flavored mornings…afternoons…and, uh…evenings. 

Fast forward to July 2012 – Cornerstone Music Festival (the last one ever.)  I had left that community to return to the Quad Cities 11 months previous, never having revealed my feelings to Gary.  In May, a friend had told him all about it one day over lunch, triggering his pursuit of me.  Now, I was at the festival and he was stuck in Chicago.  Amidst phone calls and texts, we moved from “just friends” to “maybe something more.”  My Stop it habit returned, ratcheted up, to help me deal with my overexcited brain. 

In September, I went to Chicago to visit him, and the mental gymnastics it took to keep my thoughts pure and pleasing to God felt Olympian to me. 

In the following 11 months of our courtship and engagement before our August 2013 wedding, I pulled out every tool I had ever used in 15ish years of celibacy, and some I hadn’t ever tried before, in my battle to discipline my thoughts.  After all, he was not yet my husband, and while not “going there” physically was very important, so was the quality of my thought life regarding him.  Fantasy was off-limits (or at least that’s MY interpretation of New Testament scriptures on the subject.)  That’s hard territory, and it was a battle basically every single day.

Fast forward to today – January 2014.  I have discovered a great reward and benefit, this past 5 months of marriage, for all that prayerful, desperate effort to guide my mind rightly:  I have discovered that it makes me a better wife. 

How, you ask?  Simply this:  a mind extensively practiced in not focusing on one thing (via surrender to the Holy Spirit) is much  more nimbly able to practice not focusing on other things.  See, while there is no longer any mandate that I, as Homer Simpson says, “Think unsexy thoughts” about Gary, there ARE helpful and less than helpful thoughts to focus on, as a newlywed. 

We are learning how to live together and share absolutely everything, coordinating on all the small details of life.  Extremely helpful in that is having the ability to choose not to focus negatively.  So – some little habit of his is not my favorite thing?  Guess what? 

I don’t have to meditate on that or obsess over it. 

I don’t have to tell myself reasons why it should change, or plot and plan how to effect such a change.

I can simply do this inside of my head:  Stop it!  I don’t have to say it aloud anymore, which is nice – with practice, I learned to do it silently, yet still effectively.  I shut down the thought-trains that aren’t life-giving or relationship-building – Stop it – and focus instead on the Phillippians 4:9 things:  “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” 

All of this makes me think maybe God was pretty smart when He urged us not to let our thoughts go rolling around in the mud.  It’s nifty, now practicing controlling my thoughts during dating is such a bonus to newlywed life.  Apparently, He knows what He’s doing. 

Why is this always so amazing to me?

  1. Cindy Maynard says:

    I have let my mind go to “rolling around in the mud” (thinking about how someone should change) and I realized that even though it isn’t vocalized, it impacts my actions, my words, my thoughts even more negatively. It makes me frustrated, irritable, angry and enhances the negativity. So you are so right, we must STOP IT and focus on things that are honorable, true, lovely, admirable, pure, excellent and praiseworthy. God is so smart! Why do I doubt he knows what is best? Here’s to thinking only the best thoughts, and to placing Satan where he needs to be>>>>AWAY FROM ME!

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