I recently read a "thought-for-the-day" on a calendar about how worry and fear are like a thin trickle of water that gradually digs out a channel in our minds. A result of this is that eventually much of our thinking drains into that channel, often without our even being conscious of it.
I found this concept to be a helpful springboard as I felt the need to counsel my son the other day. Certain patterns of behavior had developed in his life that were not taking him where he really wanted to be going. To the contrary, they were keeping him "spinning his wheels," preventing him from being the kind of young man he really wants to be deep down in his heart.
After leaving the paved road, we drive seven miles on dirt roads to get to where we live out in the country. Rain, snow, and high winds occasionally can contribute to the forming of deep ruts where we drive. "Picture a horse and wagon in the old days trying to stay out of those ruts," I challenged my son. "Maybe if the driver can rein in the horses to move along very gingerly, it's possible," I continued, "but what about when they break into a gallop?" It's like that with our thoughts. We think if we're careful we can control them. But when circumstances speed up (or pressures and varied influences pile up), it's much harder to be in control of all our thinking - especially when there are pronounced ruts formed in our minds from having steered our thoughts in a certain direction repeatedly in the past. Before we know it we've slipped back into the old pattern we wanted to avoid, into the ingrained habits we'd determined to break. What is the answer?
Re-channeling! I must make a conscious decision to rein in those horses and direct them down an alternate route. I must recognize the ruts for what they are and put the brakes on the harmful patterns of thinking. I am no longer ignorant of where the road I had been on was leading me (despite it's having appeared so good at first - "There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death" Proverbs 14:12). Now, when I become aware of my thoughts beginning to slip into that carved-out channel again, I can choose to "switch off" those thoughts, just the way I do a light switch on the wall. "That's a significant step - in the right direction," I told my son. "But, it's not enough."
To re-route a river, there must be a new channel into which it can flow. It's not enough to just "empty our mind," as proponents of certain types of meditation suggest is to our benefit. That can actually be dangerous. God designed us as body, mind, and spirit, and if we willfully disconnect our mind from the rest of our personhood, there are spirits of darkness quite eager to "hijack the plane," so to speak, if given the opportunity. No, it is very unwise to leave a vacuum. As the old saying goes, "Nature abhors a vacuum" - so if emptiness of mind or spirit is created, something will rush in to fill it! We don't want to inadvertently invite the enemy of our souls to take control of our minds, for he has one purpose, and one purpose only: "to steal, to kill, and to destroy" (John 10:10 ).
In the heyday of trains in our country, everyone knew what a switchman was. A train could be barreling down its pair of silver tracks, and then the switchman made his maneuver. With one stroke of his arm he moved a small portion of the tracks in such a way that upon reaching that section, the speeding train would suddenly shoot off from what the onlooker expected was its trajectory into a completely different direction.
Oh, Holy Spirit of God, be my switchman! Cause me to turn my thoughts to You. It's not enough to merely try to stop my negative thought patterns; I need to channel my thoughts into the ways of Your truth. When anxious thoughts grip my heart, I will deliberately turn my thinking into the channel of thankfulness for Your love for me and for Your wise and sovereign control over all that concerns me. When my son is tempted to entertain habits of thought that have been unmasked as destructive of all that is good in his life, please put Your hand on his, O heavenly "Switchman," and help him set his will to turn his thoughts to yielding in obedience to You and trusting Your good plan for his life ("For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for good and welfare and not for evil and hurt, to give you a future an a hope" Jeremiah 29:11).
Thank You that it is Your desire, our Father, to give us the mind of Christ - more and more - and to enable us to have Your perspective. ("My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, says the Lord, for as the heavens are higher than the earth so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts" Isaiah 55:8-9). We will learn, for You will teach us, O faithful Teacher, to channel our thoughts - from the earthly and temporary to the heavenly and eternal (II Corinthians 4:18). From the deep ruts of our lower nature's choices to the high and holy path of desiring "not my will but Thine be done" (Luke 22:42). For in this channel flows the blessed life for which we were born.
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