Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Thinking about thinking

Hello God.

Today I'm thinking about thinking. I've been having thoughts about thoughts for a little while now, and I don't mean that I'm contemplating having a go at thinking, but rather that I am turning my attention to my thoughts. What they're like, instead of just taking them at face value as if they happened to me, rather than me doing anything actively.

So much has happened lately to point me in this direction. I have read books about thinking and I have stumbled upon passages in the Bible about thinking. I'm starting to think that it's important. 

I know, I know. The penny drops. Ha. Lord God, I'm just assuming that after you've rolled your eyes you'll look back at me with an indulgent expression. 

The thing is, I've come to believe that my thoughts are important. What I think and how I think. And how I react to what I think.  What my thoughts do to me. 

I am not an optimist. And I think it can also be said that I have plenty of baggage that I've been trying to deal with recently. Whether I have made progress in that department isn't the issue here, but there are many things about me that need work, and one of the bigger ones has been my perception of myself. I have for a long time had little confidence and assumed that people would assess me and find me wanting in many ways. I have for thirty out of my forty years wished that I was thinner, more beautiful and more graceful. More attractive, wittier, cleverer and more sure of myself.  I am a critical sort of person and I am fairly even-handed in the way that I share out my critical thoughts - just as I am quick to find fault with those around me I do it to myself. If things are not done perfectly then they were a disaster. If I didn't succeed completely, then I failed. 

So I set myself up for frequent failure. You'd think I'd be used to it, resigned even, but I fear it. The fact that I am not perfect sort of sets me up for inevitable disappointment in this area, but still I dread failing. I dread the embarrassment of it, the humiliation, the sense of inadequacy, the feeling of vulnerability and being exposed as inferior for other people to see. Sometimes I don't try because I might fail. Sometimes I try but I wonder if I've done all I could to make it work since at the back of my mind not getting it right seems unavoidable. Sometimes I do try, and I get it right, and it works, but on those occasions my mind tells me it was a fluke, it was someone else's intervention or assistance that made it work, and it was despite me, not because of me. 

Lord, you must have been watching my life for so long and seeing this unhappy cycle go from bad to worse. Has it made you sad? It must have made you sad because I know that you love me and I have been trapped in an endless round of anxiety and tension and misery because of it. I haven't done things I should have done and I have done things that I shouldn't have done because of it. Because of what? Because of the way I think.

Not much can be done about that, is there? I didn't think so; indeed as an Occupational Therapist I came across Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) where psychologists and counsellors try to train people to think in a different way to break out of damaging thought patterns and reprogramme themselves to think in a healthier manner. In my mind, the jury is still out on the success or failure of CBT as a therapy programme but for me? Never considered it. Never thought it necessary. Never even noticed that my own thoughts were stamping all over me and leaving me bruised. 

So I think 'I can't do it' and 'It's all going to go wrong', and a million other little undermining thoughts. Maybe the devil puts them in my head because he knows my weaknesses (he's been cultivating them for years), or maybe it's just me sabotaging my own life because I'm broken. Who knows, but you? But still, these things come to my head. I hear them, I believe them, I act on them. I bring about what I fear the most.

'For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.'
Proverbs 23:7

What you think about gets bigger. 

So I'm learning that I can do something about it. Well, to be more accurate, I can invite you to do something about it; to co-operate with you.  Not to lie down and let the negativity and defeatism and self-criticism wash over me and bury me. I can say, 'No, this is not true. I am a child of God and the devil cannot touch me.'

Is this what you meant by 'taking every thought captive?' I identify the lie, grab hold of it and shout over it's whispering voice that I am your child and because of that I am accepted, secure and significant. I don't let it have my attention. I don't let it put down roots any more.

I am your child.

"Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God..."
John 1:12

I am no longer guilty.

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."
Romans 8:1

You are working to make me perfect.

"...being confident of this; that he who began a good work in you will carry it through to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."
Philippians 1:6

I am not going mad.

"For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but of power, of love and self-discipline."
2 Timothy 1:7

You chose me to do something special for you.

"You did not choose me, but I chose you, and appointed you to go and bear fruit - fruit that will last."
John 15:16

I can do it, because you can do it.

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
Philippians 4:13

So this is my thinking. I don't have to believe the thoughts that enter my head. Just because they crowd in and drown out the little weary hopeful part of me doesn't mean that they're right.  Those thoughts have made me what I am today; the apologetic part of me that assumes that the space I occupy is wasted. That somehow other people have more right to occupy that space than I do. Those thoughts have diminished me and they have compromised what I can do for you in my life. It's time to sort it out because I want to be all I can be.

All year I've been asking you what your plan is. What do you want me to do?  How can I be more like you, more use to you?  I think that this is a big step in the right direction. If I can stop thinking this way then there might be more space in my head to hear you.

I must have had an inkling about this in recent years; my ideas have changed definitely over time. A bit. I remember when I used to watch scary films - sometimes the more frightening the better. Gory, violent, graphic  - I watched them all. More recently I've realised that I don't want this sort of thing in my head, so I don't watch any more. I don't like excessive bad language and I don't like those stand up comedians who are vicious and offer unrelieved negativity in their satire. It tires me and makes me uncomfortable. I don't really like watching those programmes that aim to make you laugh by showing you people at weddings falling over on the dance floor. They must have hurt themselves, mustn't they?

I also realised fairly late in the day that listening to worship music in the car meant that for some of my day I am hearing truths about you and singing your praise. Quite often the song in my head is one in which you are lifted up and I like that.

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things."
Philippians 4:8

So these are the things I should think about. You. What is right. What is good. What is uplifting and true and affirming and positive. NOT the thoughts that circle round and pull me down like a hyena tugging at a buffalo. (Not sure I'm liking that analogy but it just came into my mind). Not the critical and the defeatist and the frightening and unnerving and desperate.

I have so much to learn, Father. Better late than never, I suppose, but still - how many wasted years spent believing the rubbish that's in my heads and giving it permission to stick around. It's time to go to work.

Please come and fill me with your Holy Spirit, Lord God. Send your Helper to help me with this because these patterns of thought and behaviour are deeply ingrained in me. It's not a quick fix, I don't think. I'm not going to shake it overnight. But I'm onto it.

Blow through my mind my God and clear it of the negativity and destructive thoughts. Blow them away. Cleanse my mind.

My God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, thankyou for keeping working on me. Thankyou that you would have me whole, not broken. Thankyou that you will never give up on me. Help me to open the doors in my mind to you and not to the other guy. He's been making himself comfortable in the corners of my head for too long and it's time to spring clean.


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