Take Your Mind for a Walk

Take Your Mind for a Walk: Sit – Forward – Heel
Rose Jackson ©2/9/2005

I had to laugh. We were going to be studying Joyce Meyer’s Battlefield of the Mind in our weekly women’s Bible study, and the coordinator had just asked if I’d teach the chapter “When Is My Mind Normal?” God has such a sense of humor. I’d been wrestling with anxiety, scatter-brained thinking, and then self-condemnation for LETTING myself think anxious, six-directions-at-once thoughts. I was completely unqualified – or was it ruefully, totally qualified – to teach anyone else about healthy thinking. So of course I said yes.

In the mornings I have my quiet time with God while I’m walking our two dogs, Katie and Jenga. There I go, multi-tasking meditation, but it works because I only need to use a superficial fraction of my brain to monitor the dogs. That’s the part that’s usually noisy and intrusive when I try to pray anyhow, so walking the dogs keeps it occupied with “mind-less” busy work while the rest of my brain tries to center and focus on hearing God.
So there I was the next morning, one “eye” on leashes and business ends and the “eye of my heart” crying out to see what God wanted to say through me, when it dawned on me: the normal state of my mind is like Katie (a Springer Spaniel) and Jenga (a “Chug”, Chihuahua-Pug mix) on a morning walk, running off in different directions at different speeds (my morning stretch), generally with conflicting purposes, and getting hopelessly tangled in the process.
That’s the normal state of my mind, but is that “normal?” Melancholy personality that I am, as soon as I got home and put away tangled leashes and harnesses and put some ice on my nearly-dislocated shoulder, I looked up definitions for “normal” and discovered that normal can mean:

(1) Conforming to or consisting of a pattern, process, or standard regarded as usual or typical.
(2) Well-adjusted, without marked or persistent mental aberrations.
(3) Not exposed to infection; healthy.

What is the typical, usual thinking pattern for our culture (I suspect that includes you)? Kathleen A. Hall says, “’People in this country live such fast lives of habituation . . . . We live from the outside in, not the inside out.’ Running through life has become the societal norm. ‘We have trained our brains for knee-jerk reactions.’”[1] In other words, our brains are constantly playing the pizza parlor game “Whack a Mole.” Or for you tech-savvy people, we live our days with multiple windows open. Not sure it’s true? Well . . . when you’re driving, have you ever ended up someplace other than your intended destination and not known how you got there? I have, and it scared me!

That’s typical-normal for us stress-bombarded, multi-tasking, time-challenged people, but it’s not well-adjusted, healthy normal, and I don’t think it’s what God wants for us. It’s definitely not what I want for me. What I do want in my thinking is this:

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened” (Ephesians 1:18)
“And this is my prayer, that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best . . . “ (Philippians 1:9-10)
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)

Not so deep down, I realize that a “healthy normal” mind is peaceful, alert, disciplined, trusting God, and that’s what I cry out for in the middle of my multi-tasking days. But how can I be “transformed by the renewing of your mind . . . able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will,” (Romans 12:2) if I think “from the outside in” with Whack-a-Mole scattered, knee-jerk attention?

Back to Katie and Jenga and their tangled leashes. Katie at least had obedience training – just a short course, but enough to learn to respond to a few commands: halt, sit, forward, heel. When Katie is under my control (that’s why it’s called obedience training) there’s no chaos; we move forward and get where we’re going with no strangled dogs or dislocated shoulders (mine).

God freely gives us his Spirit. Jesus promised, “If you love me, you will obey what I command (sounds like what I want from Katie for her own good). And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth.” (John 14:15-17)

Joyce Meyer writes, “The Holy Spirit gives information from God to the person’s spirit, and if his spirit and mind are aiding one another, then he can walk in divine wisdom and revelation.”[2] There it is: God’s Spirit (commanding, or if you prefer, guiding) through my spirit (obeying, cooperating) can aid my mind so I walk in divine wisdom and revelation. And do I desperately want that! So I take the commands I give Katie and apply them to myself:

“SIT” gets me to stop running and return to my voice command, to listen to God’s Spirit.

“FORWARD” reorients me by a choice of my will and gets me moving in the direction Jesus is going. “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Paul, First Century behavior modification expert) Phil. 3:14

“HEEL” reminds me to stay close to Jesus and keep pace with the Holy Spirit. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us . . . We have the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:12, 16

Silly as it sounds, I actually tell myself those commands (well, usually, and more frequently now) when I find my attention fragmented, my thoughts wandering, and my mindset anxious or negative. I pray I always respond willingly and with a renewed mind when I hear my Master ask me, “Want to go for a walk?”

Here’s a BUT for you to move today:
Dear Father and Master, I know that I “normally” respond more to circumstances and time pressures than to your voice. That’s not what I want for my brain chemistry or my life and the people I cherish, BUT your Spirit lives in me, so you give me the power to rein in my scattered thoughts and think “healthy normally,” clearly, alertly, peacefully, trusting you.

And room for your own BUT: God, I know I _______________________________ BUT you have ______________________________________________________

[1] Carrie White, “The Passion Connection,” East Valley Tribune 2/3/2005
[2] Joyce Meyer, Battlefield of the Mind,” Time Warner Book Group, New York, 1995, p. 80