I was watching a superhero TV show called, "The Flash". He is the fastest man alive and is even able to run into the future or the past. He wanted to change the past because of the loss of his mom who was murdered. I don't blame him. That is a difficult experience to overcome. Yet as he sought to change the past, he changed the future as well. He was distraught because he lost all that he loved in the future. He wanted his "happily ever after." He was trying to play God and fell short because he could only control his own actions and not the actions of others. It was crazy to watch the web of losses in the main character's life as he tried so hard to fix everything. Yet he could not change the brutal past or the uncertain future.
What did you think about last night?
What is the first thing that came to mind this morning?
What are you thinking about right now?
These are questions I've been considering lately. We are around 10 months into this second cancer journey with my wife. My thoughts and emotions are like a crazy roller coaster up then down, spinning this way and that. Is this the new normal?
I have a tendency to dwell on the past and the future. As a child I would be considered a day dreamer. I would sit in class and look out the window or doodle on my paper. I thought about being anywhere but in class. I dreamed of preaching, I dreamed of designing buildings or art. But I also repeated images of bullies harassing me or a conflict with someone. My mind replayed these difficult experiences and thoughts again and again causing me to be fearful and anxious. Perhaps I could learn how to avoid such a conflict if I figured out how to change what I did in that circumstance or change what someone else said to me. This has been the gift and vice of my thinking and it is very similar to the Flash running to the past or future to save happily ever after.
Fast forward to our current circumstance with cancer. My mind often goes to the past. What could we have changed to avoid the return of cancer? My mind goes to the future. Is there a miracle or grief? It's human and natural to think about these things. But what I am learning is that I should not 'live' in these parts of my mind and imagination. Yes, my mind is a gift and I am able to learn from the past and prepare for the future. Yet it is unhealthy to dwell on such things. In one episode of The Flash, the writers depicted a sort of hell as characters being stuck in time in their worst memory. This caught my attention. Isn't this what I do when I replay my worse experiences or fears through my imagination? It was a revelation for me.
We can mine things from the past and visit the future as a tourist in our imagination. Yet we should not camp or live there. That is a paraphrase from an author which I cannot remember the book title. It's probably Henri Nouwen. It is very useful in writing, to mine the thoughts, feelings and knowledge from the past as well as imagining the future. That part of my mind is a gift, but that gift needs to be renewed and purified.
I'm also reading a book called, "Seeking His Mind" by M. Basil Pennington. There are 40 meditations from scripture. Daily I read a section of scripture and the devotion that follows. By washing my mind with the word, meditating, imagining and being present with Christ, I am gaining new focus even with our circumstances. Yes there are still moments where my mind drifts. But learning to be present moment by moment and day by day takes some effort. Being trapped by our past experiences or our worst fears is NOT what God desires for us. Instead we need to renew our minds in Christ and His word!
"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:2
"Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest." Hebrews 3:1
"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." Philippians 4:8
Our flesh, the world and Satan have an agenda for our minds and our souls - to "kill, steal and destroy." In these is fear, death and everything of darkness. Anyone who begins to dwell on these things or even dare I say love them, would take good counsel to STOP and consider God's promises to us in Christ. And what are these promises: love, peace and life in abundance. The abundant life is only found in and through Jesus suffering, death and resurrection. By fixing our minds on Jesus, we can walk straight ahead not concerning ourselves of the circumstances around us or of the future that is ahead. Christ is our future and with him a Kingdom where we need not fear, or shed a tear, but we rejoice and worship the Living God eternally. The alternative is grim to be caught in eternal suffering and death. But Jesus is the resurrection and the life and no one comes to the Father but by Him. (John 11:25-26; 14:1-6; John 10).
It's a battle of time travel in our minds. Let us use the time in our thoughts and actions to encourage each other, to move forward in this moment fixing our thoughts on the promises and word of God! I need Jesus in this journey. I need the encouragement of other believers. God's promises will help us to press on, to endure and finish this race that is before us.
Renew our minds today Lord. Fix our thoughts on Jesus and all that is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy! May Your Kingdom Come in our minds and on earth as it is in heaven.
And may the peace of Christ rest on you all! Renew your mind and think of something beautiful today!
Your brother in Christ,
Image above: by Marc Chagall
Image below: by Elena Kotliarker
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