Over the past few days, I’ve had some of those recurring thoughts.
I think you know the ones I’m talking about.
“I’m a pretty awful mama. I shouldn’t have yelled at her like that.”
“What kind of mother am I? I can’t even make a meal that my child will eat? It’s my most basic of responsibilities to this little person – to feed her – and I can’t even do that.”
“I need to be a better wife. He needs more from me.”
“I’ve been a terrible sister.”
“I’m not a good friend.”
“I’m a bad daughter…”
On and on they go, like a horrible preview to an even worse movie. Round and round, like an unending ride on an evil merry-go-round. Swirling, flashing, crowding…clear, distract, repeat.
And it was during one of those terrible rides on that awful carousel that it happened…that He came. I sat on the front porch in my rocking chair, feeling so emotionally beat up that I couldn’t even bring myself to do something as lighthearted as rock in that chair. I sat, frozen in time, aware that neighbors and passers-by could see me and might be wondering what was up. I stared into space, completely motionless save for the occasional shuffle of my feet.
Inside, though, behind those glassy eyes, the thoughts…they swirled.
And as they swirled, rain clouds moved ever closer and an evening shower fell on my house. The shelter of the porch let me stay in my frozen position; I numbly watched the rain fall on the grass and off the eaves of the house and make speckly marks on the walkway. I felt a mist on my face and was vaguely aware that perhaps I should slide the chair back a little to avoid splatter on my legs. As my surroundings began to match my insides more and more, with gray clouds and cold water and unfriendly wind, I focused in on the grass directly below the eaves…those spots of grass that were getting all of the attention from the dripping water. I watched each drop become a trickle, and each trickle become a stream. I watched those steady streams of water flowing from the roof onto the grass.
Predictably, those sections of grass were taller. Greener. More lush. Because most of our yard is none of those things – i.e. not tall…not green…not lush – the portions that are seem to stand out even more. They’ve gotten all of the attention – all of the nurturing they need to grow and thrive. The other places…well, not so much.
And so I thought about what was going on over my head. As I sat there, raindrops were falling on the roof, joining other raindrops and becoming trickles…streams…torrents, really, flowing off the roof. What began as one simple drop joined with many others to create a force…to create a pathway for other drops to follow. Each drop joined with the others to create a stream that, with each added drop, made it impossible for others to escape. One became two…two became twenty…and twenty became a stream pouring over the edge of the roof onto one well-watered patch of grass. Drop after drop…storm after storm…on and on.
Years ago, I had a series of conversations with some friends of mine who told me a philosophy on positive thinking that required “rewriting the tapes” in my mind. Basically, they said, I needed to stop playing the tapes I’ve always listened to. No, not the worn out Wilson Phillips and Bangles ones sitting somewhere in my attic. The tapes they were talking about were the ones that are on a perpetual loop in the stereo of my mind…the ones that play an unfortunate soundtrack to my life with tunes like “You’re not good enough” and “Sit down and shut up.” Those tapes, my friends said, were not helpful to me and should be rewritten to create the soundtrack I wanted for my life.
Those friends were (are) infinitely wise, and the idea of a tape running in my mind has been one that comes back periodically. I keep an awareness of what I’m thinking and how it affects me. I try to stay on top of my thoughts, not letting them run away with me into a wild and crazy place from which I can never seem to find an easy escape. I have come to understand the power of my thoughts – the strength they have to grab me and pull me under.
So as I watched the rain the other evening, I thought about those tapes in my mind and what had driven me onto the porch in the first place. I thought about those raindrops – one added to another added to yet another – and how the motion of many seemed to dictate where the next ones would go. I thought about the grass that was being watered by the perpetual stream. And I thought about the patches of grass that weren’t getting any water at all – the sections that were right next to the lush, green, thriving grass that were dying because there was nothing intentionally lavished on it to ensure its health.
And again, my thoughts went around and around……
And there, the Holy Spirit met me.
“Jess, these thoughts you’re struggling with…they’re thriving because you LET them thrive. You continue thinking these things – that you’re inadequate in the many roles you play in life – because there is a well worn path for those thoughts to go down. The thoughts have been thought and reinforced and have gone on to create fruit. The thoughts you think will create something in your life. Something will be nurtured by the direction you allow your thoughts to take. You will have to create a new pathway…a new route for your thoughts to travel…for other fruit to be evident in your life. Water the other fruit, and it will grow.”
So that’s where I am now. Trying to create new pathways (again) for the tricky thoughts that keep going ‘round. Asking Jesus how to take those thoughts captive before they do it to me…to make everything that runs through my mind about Him and Him alone. Today, that has meant simply saying, “Jesus, it’s all about you,” OUT LOUD in response to whatever path my thoughts choose to take.
Tomorrow, well….I don’t know what that will look like. I’ve undertaken this endeavor many times before, and I know that it will continue to be a discipline that I have to practice as long as thoughts continue running through my mind.
I am thankful, though, that in those storms – outside and in – there is shelter.
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:4-5)
What about you? What ways have you found to rewrite those tapes in your mind? And how can I pray for you as you work on this?
Journeying with you,
(NOTE: I feel I should mention that I’m not writing this as a way of seeking compliments or pity or affirmation or whatever. This is just part of my journey, and if the same is true for you, my prayer is that you are encouraged by the knowledge that you aren’t the only one.)