on taking thoughts captive

Posted: February 3, 2016 in Uncategorized

Do not confer with imaginations.  Our pastor used this bit on Sunday as he was describing to us the weapons available to each of us in the fight to get back up quickly after we’ve fallen.  It goes with the scriptural command to, “Take your thoughts captive.”

Conferring with imaginations is exactly what we do – what I do – all too often.  It took me most of my life up to now to start really learning the power of taking my thoughts captive.

Both bits – to confer with imaginations or to take my thoughts captive – are pretty foreign at first glance, aren’t they?  What do they even MEAN?  It mostly sounds like churchspeak, without a clear or easy definition.  How does one reach up onto the high shelf of ideas and ideals and pull this one down to practical application level?

I confer with imaginations when after having failed, I stay stuck in the mud of calling myself names and agreeing with the thought that I’ll never get it right, so there is no use in even trying again.

I confer with imaginations when I have a thought that someone has something against me, and I nurture that thought and look for evidences of its truth and react as if they don’t like me, rather than putting the thought down and/or going straight to the person for real talk.

Many of us moms have conferred with imaginations when we haven’t known where are kids are – the old “dead in a ditch” thing rears its ugly head and terror grips us until we get a better answer.

I confer with imaginations when I’ve got a weird pain and I Ask the Google about it and then fall down the rabbit hole of every worst-case scenario – cancer! brain tumor! disease only 3 people on the planet were ever known to have! – rather than supposing perhaps all is well.

I confer with imaginations when, amidst feeling self-conscious about speaking up, I begin to buy into the thought that everyone really is sick of me and wishes I’d just shut up already.

Scripture tells us that love hopes all things and love believes all things.  I had a hard time with that for just about ever, since it sounds like love is one big gullible sucker wearing a “kick me” sign on its back.  What I think now is that hoping all things and believing all things is the OPPOSITE of conferring with imaginations.

Conferring with imaginations is falling into every worst-case scenario.  It is stubbornly holding onto negativity.  It is assuming the worst of others and myself – a pervasive critical spirit.  It is reading situations through every bit of sickness and baggage and flat out wrong-belief in me, and then believing what I think I see.

Hoping all things and believing all things is living under the assumption that God is good, that He sees, that He knows, that He never leaves or forsakes me.  It is stubbornly holding onto all the best possibilities.  It is assuming that others are doing the best they can with what they know and have, and that they mean well.  It is extending grace and mercy to myself and others.  It is reading situations through the truth of the things God has told us, even when those things seem somewhere between difficult and impossible to grasp in their goodness.

Taking thoughts captive happens at the point of choosing to hope all things and believe all things rather than to confer with imaginations.  What does that look like?

When I screw up, I get back up.  I turn around and do things differently.  I make no assumptions that I’m just too stupid or broken to get it right.  I presume that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, and that His grace and mercy cover my mistakes – but that doesn’t mean I have to live forever in the land of mistakes or that God now hates me for getting it wrong.

When I have a thought that someone is thinking bad thoughts about me, I fight that thought, rather than fighting that person.  I ask myself questions.  Has this person generally displayed ill will or bad intentions toward me?  Is it possible that their behavior is actually (gasp) NOT ABOUT ME AT ALL – that they just have their own thing going on and are struggling?  If I can think of something I might have done to offend them, I just go to them and talk it out, rather than wondering and choosing to get offended at the possibility that they maybe may or may not be offended at me.

When I don’t know where my kid is, I remember that they are smart and capable and maybe a bit inconsiderate about checking in, and I make the choice not to make goulish and unnecessarily frightening assumptions unless and until better evidence points that direction.

When I’ve got a weird pain, I decline the temptation to Ask the Google or to meditate on my neighbor who had a bad pain once and ended up in surgery.  I listen to my body and try to determine what it might be trying to tell me.  I stop and think about whether I’ve been taking good care of it.  Have I been drinking enough water?  Getting enough sleep?  Did I do something recently that might have caused a temporary-but-benign pain?  I pray about the pain, but not in an eek maybe I’m dying way – more just drawing near to God.  And if it persists, maybe I see a doctor about it – but still making the assumption that the news will be good or benign unless and until other evidence clearly presents itself.

When I feel like everybody hates me and wishes I’d shut up, I bear in mind that thoughts like that are so sweeping and overgeneralized that they can’t be fully true.  EVERYBODY doesn’t hate me.  There are probably only 2 sources of such thoughts.  One is direct interference from our enemy, and he just REALLY overplays his hand with some of these things, to the point that I often have to laugh at the ridiculousness of the scope of what he says when trying to beat me down.  And the other is self-hatred, which often pushes us into wallowing, and the language of the wallow is always stupidly extreme.  Our pastor made a fun and disgusting analogy about self hatred, saying that when we screw up it can *feel right* to hate ourselves – it can somehow offer relief in the same way letting a giant stinky fart can offer us some relief when we’re gassy.  And like a giant stinky fart, self-hatred is something everyone around us can detect – and they are negatively impacted by it.  So taking my thoughts captive regarding self-hatred will not only help me out of the misery, but it will save those around me the misery of dealing with the stench of it.

We don’t default to taking our thoughts captive.  There is nothing natural or instinctive about it.  As for me, I have to make a concerted effort to do it.  Every.  Single.  TIME.  I have to be disciplined and intentional about it.  I have to be stubborn.  I have to push HARD against the resistance in me that wants to be a morose, depressed, self-pitying victim in most circumstances.  The part that tends to be difficult and not play well with others, nor myself.  The part that forgets who God is and who I am in Him.

It’s worth the fight.  Let’s do this day purposing to take our thoughts captive, and to refuse to confer with imaginations.  Let’s hope all things and believe all things.

Let’s watch God work.

 

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