(Caveat: Sorry for the length, I hope you will feel like it was worth it in the end. –WV)
We all act and react to how loved we FEEL. When we’re feeling loved we feel happy, more patient, more generous. Test me and see if this isn’t true. When we do not feel loved we feel sad, our impatience is at an all time high, we are prone to feel alone, and we want to keep everything for ourselves because who knows when we’ll get more… There are many side effects to not receiving love, but the main one is how we end up thinking about ourselves. And when we don’t view ourselves correctly, our view of God and others is also greatly hindered.
However, the more sure we are of being loved, the closer we are to the freedom and abundant life that Jesus died to give us. I begin this post with this idea of receiving love because I have lived and witnessed the truth of it’s importance in my life. We all act as either orphans or children of God. When we can accept that we are indeed chosen, adopted, and loved, we are able to love ourselves, others, and God at a whole new level. The level at which Christ invites us. The kind of love that echoes Christ’s death on the cross and embodies his example of feet washing. All of His acts of love came from being rooted in the knowledge that He was indeed the Son of God in whom His Father was well pleased. And living His life out of the knowledge of Who He was and where He was going changed the world.
Jesus knew His identity. Do we know ours? Many of us wonder and struggle with that timeless question, “What was I created for?” In a simple response I will tell you what I have discovered. We were created to be loved by God, to be enjoyed by God. When we believe this truth then we can fulfill the other half of our purpose: loving God and His people. Now that can take on many forms in this life according to talent, geography, gifts, callings, passions, and so on, but the purpose is the same. We only complicate it. So this entry is focused on getting you to a place where you can begin, perhaps for the first time, to see how your thinking affects your capacity to be loved and to love in return. Because as you renew your mind you become more and more aware of true and false. Light and dark. And where you fall between the two. So I pray that you will be honest with yourself, and allow yourself to see the areas that need light and a good dose of truth.
First, let’s start with the distractions that we allow into our lives. These distractions can keep us from acknowledging important truths about ourselves and about our views of God. We all know we get distracted, but choose to overlook these distractions because we WANT to be distracted. Let me say that again. If you are unable to admit that something is a distraction it is because you WANT to be distracted. It’s like St. Augustine said, “Oh, Lord make me chaste, but just not yet.” We want to get to a good mental state, but then we are unwilling to make the breaks from the things that are keeping us from healthy thinking. So we pray, like St. Augustine, for help with what we struggle with, but knowing that part of us doesn’t mean it. We have to CHOOSE to think differently as I wrote about in Part 1.
So here is where I want to challenge you to ask yourself if you really mean it. Do you know you want to think differently? Do you want to make a break with old habits of thinking that are leading you in the wrong direction? Or do you like me find a million excuses, all the while claiming that God is number one. I had to admit to myself that I often say, “God you are everything to me.” While acting in a dozen ways that contradict that claim. I want to mean it, but I have to make the choice to live like He IS everything to me. For some of us it’s unhealthy thinking about ourselves: body image, negative self talk, lack of confidence in our abilities, an old tape of someone in our life speaking negativity over our life, or a thousand other things. I can’t pinpoint every person’s struggles, but I can tell you that whatever your mental struggle it is holding you back. So it comes to making a choice. A choice that can lead to drastic change and the freedom you want.
Choosing differently is all well and good, but what does it look like? Practically speaking how do we get our minds to think in new patterns? How do we break from old ways of thinking? I’ll give you the short version and in my next blog I will elaborate on the following acronym and then give some helpful, practical ways that we can “take every thought captive.” Starting with before those thoughts even have a chance to enter our minds.
P- Prayer: Prayer is the way that we communicate with God, but it is also a means in which God can communicate with us. Prayer allows us to open our hearts and minds to the divine work of the Holy Spirit. Giving Him the chance to guide and direct our thoughts. He wants to help us. This is a way we can invite Him to do so. Prayer opens the door for God to tell us who we really are, and the areas that He wants to help us with. Through prayer we become more aware of who we are and who God is.
R-Receive: Prayer puts our hearts in the posture to receive. Because we are in communication with the creator we can be aware of how He truly sees us. And when we are able to receive we enable truth to change our hearts and minds.
A- Awareness: Receiving truth from the Lord also allows us to walk through life with a higher level of awareness. Awareness of who we are, but also of the things that could be hindering us from communion and life with Christ. One of the major pluses to awareness is that as we grow in our awareness of ourselves we also grow in awareness of how the enemy lies and deceives us. Once we identify our strengths and weaknesses we are far less likely to fall for his schemes and we are far more likely to have victory utilizing our strengths.
I-Input: When we are aware of the enemies schemes we can then acknowledge that one of the main areas that we are attacked is through our senses. And the main influence on our senses are the things that we allow into our brains. We input in a lot of different ways: Seeing, smelling, hearing, touching, tasting. So we have to be careful that we are controlling our senses, and our senses are not controlling us. The biggest struggles come from what we hear and see. So we have to be careful to follow that old childhood adage: Garbage in, garbage out. If all you consume is junk, then that will be what outpours into your life. Our lives are a product of our consumption.
S-Solitude and Silence: These two things, combined can be powerful tools to help us renew our minds. When we come into these times prepared to “listen” we can walk away without the baggage that we all seem to carry in this life. We see ourselves correctly and are less likely to be hindered by satan’s lies. Instead laying these things at the cross and walking away in freedom. Identifying and leaving behind the lies that can build imaginary barriers between us and God. We are never truly separated, but the enemy is clever at erecting imaginary strongholds. Temporarily shutting out the world allows us to see ourselves, others, our situations with clarity. Then we do not end up allowing our minds to keep us from God’s throne.
E- Emotions: And when we have control over our imaginations we have better control over our emotions. Our emotions have the power to quickly override our thoughts so it is important to keep our minds healthy so that we don’t allow our emotions to rule over us. Our emotions have a funny way of making a lie seem like truth and vice versa. If we can successfully control our actions and reactions due to our emotions we will soon notice a huge difference in the topography of our lives.
Next blog I will have more on the practical side of this PRAISE acronym, and the part that gratitude plays in our journey towards renewed thinking. Until then…
May we allow truth to change us.