04 March 2010

Guarding and unguarding my thoughts

I've encountered a life-changing read this Lent in the book, A Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns, president of World Vision. It is a compelling, challenging book for Christians. It is a compelling, challenging book for me.

I have been processing the book at the same time that our pastor has begun a sermon series on our thought lives. The basis of his sermon series is this passage from Romans 12 "I beseech ye, brethren, by the mercies of God that ye prepare your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." (pardon -- I have the KJV memorized and it never sounds right to me unless in this version).

As our pastor has pointed out, scripture is clear here that disciplining our thoughts brings us into alignment with the will of God. He talked about how important it is to choose to expose our minds and, thus, our spirits to things that build us up and encourage us to be holy. And, of course, I thought about tv shows and songs and other media (like the internet *ahem*). I thought about what a huge difference it makes in my life to filter the things which influence me. And I thought about how, a year ago or so, I decided to listen to sacred music most of the time and how much that has changed what goes through my head throughout the day. I love the snippets of scripture that appear with melodies at odd moments. The echoes are just lovely.

But while processing my reaction to the earthquake in Haiti, especially through the lens of "the hole" in my gospel, I've realized that while God wants me to guard my thoughts when it comes to those things I seek out to entertain me, that God wants me to unguard my thoughts when it comes to the suffering of others. I am finding that to participate in the grandeur of self-focused thought refinement without applying the exercise to the world beyond is so...hollow. It is "the hole," I guess. And I have realized that the desire to live an insular existence is not a holy desire. I've thought about how many of us will gladly watch CSI or, heck, MYSTERY on PBS or will expose ourselves to all manner of crazy, violent thoughts and dissonant behavior, but won't watch the news or look at pictures of a disaster or read statistics of suffering or even discuss the presence of evil in the world. Being careful not to see the news does not mean that the news doesn't happen.

So, while being called to set my mind on things above, I've been being reminded to open my eyes and see -- really see-- this world God loves.

Thus, my prayer this Lent has been two-fold. First --"May the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Reedemer." And, I've been praying the prayer of Bob Pierce, World Vision's founder, "Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God."


Holly said...

April, This has been a big change in me within the past year. I still have a hard time putting it into thoughts...perhaps that's because there is never actual "quiet" here...

Before, I was afraid to look. So afraid of being "tainted," I think. I don't only mean the conditions around the world, but sin, in general.

I think that I've been enabled to see things through God's viewpoint a little bit more (and I hope that isn't an audacious claim.) To me, it's like being able to look at a wounded individual, someone who is really hurt. Instead of covering my eyes, or covering my nose and gagging, or shrieking in (figurative) dismay...it's like I can uncover the eyes and unplug the ears and say, "Oh, hey. Let me see that, buddy. Ouch. That must really, really hurt. Let's take a look and see what we can do to help with that.

I think a summer of seeing harsh injuries in my own children (one attacked and beaten up, one in an awful injury...both left bleeding and hard to look at) changed me a bit. I had to embrace pain and suffering as a mom, whether I wanted to or not. That was hard, and yet, it was my job, one that only I could fill as I held and comforted and loved.

I read a lot, too. One of the most memorable was the Hole in Our Gospel. It's required reading for our homeschool highschool now. Another one was UnChristian by David Kinnamon. They both helped me realize how I, in a lifelong attempt to be separate had indeed been insular and uncaring. In fear of being tainted, I had left people to languish, because I just couldn't handle it.

I think you've captured one of the paradoxes of the Christian life: How to guard the mind, but let the heart love unrestrainedly. Sometimes, it feels that Christ compels us to do impossible things. But they're not really impossible - it's a matter of following his example and of allowing Him to live in us.

Deborah said...

Thanks for this post, April. I just finished reading Crazy Love, and I'm wrestling with some hard questions about our lifestyle and future plans.

April said...

Such wise thoughts, Holly. My background, as you probably know, was not one of worry about being "tainted." Not at all. The concept of guarding thoughts is, sadly, relatively new to my practices.

I noticed when I had children that it was difficult to watch violence, hear news reports, etc. but I never associated that it was because God had made my heart much, much larger in the raising of my children. It hurts much more to see pain now, to hear anguish... but I think your analogy of being a caregiver of the wounded is apt. "Stewards (Stewarts?) of creation" has taken on new meaning for me in the last few months. I can't care if I refuse to see. It's time to open my eyes and heart to that which needs love and caring.

I'm putting UNChristian on my list at the library.

Deborah... I thought Crazy Love was challenging. In a good way. Stearns' book helped me to put feet on the feelings I had after Crazy Love. I know we still have a VERY long way to go, but it's all a process. You know that far better than me, probably! :)