Monday, July 25, 2016

I've got a minion problems and worry ain't one

I listened to a lot of Patch the Pirate when I was young.  Don't worry if you don't know who that is.  The important thing is that I learned some valuable life lessons from these programs during my formative years.  One such lesson was that I was a worrier and I needed to stop.  I come by it honestly to be sure and the struggles my parents are having with worry have made me take a look at myself and realize to my astonishment that the Lord has been working on me in that area.  I'm not worry free, but I have gained some skills, thanks to the Lord, in how to deal with it in a healthy way.  You see, I looked at my dad a couple of weeks ago and told him he really needed to stop worrying and he looked straight back at me and said "It's not like a light switch I can turn off".  Nobody wants to worry.  It's an awful feeling and has been proven to adversely affect our health.  I remember feeling that exact same way though.  If I could have found the switch I would have turned it off too.  So what happened that helped me find the switch?  We'll get to that, but first...you should listen to the song that inspired me when I was young...and still does.

I worry *snort, snort* worry *snort, snort* all my time away.... ah, memories.  Now on to business.

Because worry is a common problem, it is important to address it as a minion for many reasons.  Worry can rob us of the stamina necessary for ministry work because it's exhausting and there is too much to be done to waste it worrying.  It's crippling and imprisoning.  It steals our creativity and our joy.  But how do you stop doing it?

My Bible Study group knew we wanted to study HOW to take our thoughts captive.  We know the Bible says to do it but HOW?  So we started to look for material that would help us practice and learn how to ...

2 Corinthians 10:5New International Version (NIV)

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.

What we found was this: 
 by Jennifer Rothschild

I can't tell you how often me and my ladies have brought up what we learned from this study or how profoundly it affected us.  Don't get me wrong, this isn't an advertisement .  We found woefully few studies focused on the how to's of "don't worry", and "take every thought captive".  This study was about our destructive inner monologues.
It's true that my inner monologue was and is full of negative self talk.  How about yours?  Go ahead and think about it, I'll wait......that's what I thought.  Don't worry, you're not alone.  
As I was listening to the book of Matthew today Jesus said 17“Do you not yet realize that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then is eliminated? 18But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these things defile a man. Mt 15: 17-18
There is a list of things in the following verses given as examples of what defiles a person including evil thoughts, slander and false testimony.  I used to think that was all spewing from the heart into the world but I failed to realize that our hearts and minds are in concert in this area.  What we believe about ourselves informs how we interact with the world.  Proverbs 12 tells us that, “As a man thinks, so is he.”
Rothschild reminded us that chopping off the root of the lies that we tell ourselves is vital to a practical working out of 2 Cor 10:5.  It doesn't take the enemy a lot of effort to use the lies we are already used to telling ourselves.  They are comfortable and familiar.  It takes effort and attention to listen to what's going on in our headspace, figure out the root of the lie and replace it with truth.  
When I was younger, I tried quoting verses or thinking about something Philippians 4:8 approved.  
Finally, brothers and sisters, 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.
It felt like a stop gap and never really worked.  Perhaps it was the vanity of youth or perhaps it just wasn't enough.  For me, what has worked is knowing and identifying the falsehood, the lie that is driving not only the negative behavior but the negative thoughts in my head.  If I fill my head with scripture on top of my wrong assumption I am more likely to try and fit what God has said into the context of what I already believe.  If I deal with the lie first, then replace it with God's truth, I have a clean space.  It's a release.  Letting go of the lie isn't always easy.  We've told some of them to ourselves for most of our lives.  Sometimes its hard to tell the difference between the healthy and the destructive.  It is a deeply personal journey and is bound to have some false starts.  
Like I said, it takes work and perseverance. Recognize the lie, refuse it and then replace it with the truth.  Sure it sounds simple but it's anything but.  I can tell you with absolute certainty that it's worth the effort.  

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