Fired by love's urgent longings, I am his rocketman.
Tangled Minds

Tangled Minds

In the play “Les Miserables”, the main character, Jean Valjean, repeatedly asks himself, “Who am I?”.  Although his name is Jean Valjean, while imprisoned for nineteen years for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his starving relatives, he was known by his prison number 24601.  For this fictional character, the name Jean Valjean represents all that is good and the number 24601 reminds him of his life as a convict and everything bad that went along with it.  Throughout the play, as Valjean encounters various conflicts, and resolves how he will respond to them,  he wonders who he really is:  Jean Valjean or 24601?  Sometimes, especially when confronted with difficulties, I wonder who I am?

Suppose today that I am tempted to lose my patience with one of my co-workers, but I resist the temptation.  I may wrestle in my own mind with the question:  Am I bad because I felt like loosing my temper, or because I wanted to lose my temper? Or am I good for resisting the temptation and overcoming my normal tendencies?  I guess it depends on what I choose to believe.

The enemy tells me I am bad because I feel like being impatient or because I feel grumpy inside and, depending on my particular state of mind on any given day or, for that matter, at any given moment, I may agree with my accuser.  However, when I have my wits about me, and there are occasions when I do, I might tell the “father of lies”, to “kiss my proverbial ass”, as I go on my merry way believing more in the grace and mercy of God than my own wretchedness.

What if today, I have a minor accident driving home from work which could have been catastrophic.  I can thank God for his protection and continue to trust in his providential care.  Or I can allow myself to imagine all of the bad things that could have happened, but didn’t.  Instead of expressing thankfulness, I  could easily find myself doubting God’s care, wondering if he really loves me, and living with a sense of dread or impending doom.  At a fundamental level, the choice is up to me.

It seems like the quality of my life, that is the quality of the life I live, inside and out — what I think and I what I do, depends on what I believe.  For example, do I believe the accuser of the brethren has been thrown down?  (Revelations 12:10) Do I believe “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”? (Romans 8:1)

Do I entertain the enemy’s lies?  Do I resist him knowing that I am in Christ Jesus and therefore not subject to his condemnation?  Who am I?  What do I believe?  More importantly, how do I live and what does the way I live say about what I really believe?

Another scripture I have been thinking about is:

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.  For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship.  When we cry ‘Abba! Father!’ it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ … (Romans 8:14-15)

What does it mean to be a son?  What does it mean to part of a family?  What does it mean to be an heir, and not just any heir, but a co-heir with Jesus?  What does it mean to have a father who loves me the way this Father does?  All of these ideas communicate permanency, long/forever lasting relationships, security and a place of belonging that will never be taken away.

However, if it can never be taken away, why do I act like it might disappear at any moment, through some small misstep on my part?  Why do I live as if my daddy really isn’t my daddy?  Maybe it’s because I don’t have as much faith in him as I think I do?  Or, perhaps more to the point, it’s because I don’t exercise as much faith in him as I should.

I love the line from the play “A Man For All Seasons” where Thomas More tells his daughter Meg, “God made the angels to show him splendor, as he made animals for innocence and plants for simplicity.  But man he made to serve him wittily, in the tangle of his mind.”  Of course, it goes without saying, some minds are more tangled than others.

Herein lies the challenge:  on one side is the divine and on the other the diabolical.  The only thing lying between heaven and hell is my tangled mind — and, I don’t care who you are, that’s a scary thought.

St. Paul puts it in context for me in this way:

For though we live in the world we are not carrying on a worldly war, for the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds.  We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ … (II Corinthians 10:4-5)

A few things stand out for me in this passage.  First Paul assumes that we are at war.  I tend to forget that point.  Next Paul assures us that we are “weaponized” for battle and our weapons are divinely empowered.  In addition, we are supposed to use these weapons to destroy the enemy.  In other words, we are the ones who are supposed to be kicking butt, rather than having our butts kicked every time we turn around.  (You have to admit, that sounds nice).  So in this war raging in the jungle of my mind, I am empowered to destroy my enemy.  Finally, and most importantly, we are to take every thought captive to obey Christ.

What does it mean to take every thought captive to obey Christ?  Webster defines “captive” as:  “taken and held as or as if a prisoner of war”.  This definition seems particularly helpful.  Imagine if you and I could take every thought and hold it in obedience to Christ.  What if all of our thoughts were captured in service to the truth — the truth about Christ and the truth about us.  Can you begin to grasp the freedom we might experience?

Think what would happen inside of us if we simply begin to lay hold of the truth contained in the Word of God and bring all of our thoughts captive into serving the truth?  Our minds and actions would be revolutionized.

Let’s look at a few verses of scripture:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.  Let all men know your forbearance.  The Lord is at hand.  Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, do; and the God of peace will be with you.  (Philippians 4:4-9)

This is one small passage.  We have read it or heard it read many times.  But what if we read it today, in the power of the Holy Spirit, with an understanding that we are at war, that we have a personal enemy, who is so evil and so full of malice towards us, that he never stops thinking of ways to prevent us from taking hold of its truth; and suppose we decide right now that we are tired of him robbing us of the best things in life and, therefore, we resolve to fight back with all of our strength, determination and energy to lay hold of the truth contained in this one passage and to bring every thought we think into its service?  Imagine what will happen to us and those around us if we do it?

If I were to come into your home and begin to tell you that you are stupid, or dumb as dirt, or a loser, or that you’re worthless, or wicked or any such thing, what would you do?  Likely you would be very offended and would quickly show me the door while giving me a piece of your mind for good measure.  But what happens when the enemy whispers his lies and continually reminds us our weaknesses, shortcomings, sins, fears and regrets?

On good days we reject his lies, on average days we do our best to ignore him and on bad days we assent to and entertain his malicious accusations.   Rarely do we treat him like you would treat me if I fuss at you the way he does.  We forget so easily that we are at war and the battle is very personal.  He is our mortal enemy and he hates us.  For our sake and for the sake of the Kingdom, we need to remind each other to resist him and his lies much more forcefully.

But we also need to arm ourselves with the truth.  The Word of God is alive, active, powerful and it accomplishes what God intends for it to do. (See Hebrews 4:12 and Isaiah 55:11)  The Word of God is the sword of the Spirit.  (Ephesians 6:17) It is one of the weapons referred to in the passage above and it is divinely empowered.  (II Corinthians 10:4-5)

I am not referring to positive thinking or mind control.  Rather, I am writing about equipping our minds with the mind of Christ, ( See Philippians 2:5-11 and 1 Peter 4:1) for battle against a fearsome foe.  Without the Word of God we have little chance of personal success or real progress in the spiritual life.

I think it’s time we take a hard look at our lives and assess our own fitness for battle.  I can only speak for myself.  Over the last few years, I think I have grown through increased prayer and spiritual reading.  Yet I have to admit that the best still lays in front of me.  Even though I have advanced, the enemy continues to rob me of the better fruit.  I believe, at least in part, this is because I have not given the Word of God the place of prominence that it deserves and I require.  Think about it this way, if the Word of God really is the Word of God, shouldn’t it predominate every area of our lives?  Shouldn’t we feed on it day and night, as opposed to every once in a while?

If Thomas More is right, and God made man to serve him wittily in the tangle of his mind, then undoubtedly I need to apply a little more wit.  A little repentance is in order  — well — a lot of repentance is in order.  If I am going to engage in the war, I need more powerful weapons than I have employed heretofore.  I don’t know about you, but I am tired of getting kicked around.  Frankly, I am ready to do some kicking of my own.

What about you?  Will you commit with me to take our position in the battle more seriously and to give the Word of God the place of honor it deserves in our daily lives?  I know that a lot of your already do this, but we can always do more, right?

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Mark, your prayerful comments and reflections are RIGHT ON. Keep preaching the truth. Exercising faith means choosing actively to believe the truth and not the lies of our Enemy.

  2. Thanks for your encouragement. I think we need to remind each other about these things. We tend to forget the need to be watchful and the power of we have to choose

  3. Anonymous says:

    Thanks Mark, I really appreciate this. The ‘fellowship’ of reading someone else’s everyday interior struggle is uplifting. We are not alone in our struggles. Moreover, your message is so positive and radical i.e. getting to the root of things. I intend to revisit it as it’s very rich.

  4. Thanks for your encouragement. If you read my reply and you don’t mind, tell me who you are?

    • I’m a different anonymous from the previous original anonymous. We haven’t met. I regularly comment on Rachel Balducci’s blog as ‘Adrian G’. Following my link there (or here?) would probably save a lot of time. I’m a very amateur, very recent, and now very occasional blogger. In the ‘tangle of my mind’ I think I’ve become unsure what to blog about! I reckon we’re 3894.81 miles from each other. If you’d very long arms I’d shake your hand and say ‘Hi!’

  5. Adrian, I appreciate you reaching out from such a long way to say hello. I enjoyed reading your posts and getting a sense of your life over there. It seems as if you have a good family and a good life. Keep it up

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