This week we celebrate our country’s freedom to act, speak and live as we choose but that does not mean we are truly free. I propose that the most central, albeit hidden, bondage is the captivity of our minds.
In my last blog I listed four different kinds of unruly thoughts that can capture my brain before breakfast. They included imaginary fantasies in which I obtain recognition and admiration from significant people in my life, composing monologues with people who have hurt me, replaying shameful scenes from old movies of my life, and endlessly rehearsing a real conversation that I dread.
The battle for our minds’ freedom is fierce, and, like any cherished freedom, the process of conquering our captor takes a lot of commitment. It is possible to take every thought captive. It is not at all easy.
Here are some the strategies I have learned to use in waging this war for my mind.
- A bit of healthy humor at my ridiculous image-driven acting is often sufficient to take myself off my imaginary stage. Cultivating a sense of humor towards oneself is an effective weapon against narcissistic flights of fantasy.
- The pain of unresolved relationships needs to be set at the pierced feet of our ascended, interceding Jesus: “Father, forgive her, and grant her the strength to release this unresolved relationship to me.” Turning our eyes upon Jesus is more than a sweet gospel song. It is sound advice.
- Our enemy takes a perverse delight in bringing back moments of particular shame. But condemnation requires spiritual airtime, and the shame of these old memories can be suffocated as I see myself covered by Jesus’ righteousness. I see his righteousness as a mantel, covering me from top to bottom. I belong to Jesus, not to my regrets. (Such imaging is a powerful, Spirit-led use of the imagination.)
- And finally, dreaded futures are to be surrendered into the hands of the One who holds that future. Practicing the Holy Spirit’s presence in and with us is far more productive than rehearsing our own anxious thoughts on what to say. If my mind is dwelling in Jesus, my mouth will know what to say when the time comes. No amount of preparation can substitute for a quiet, Spirit-led conversation that has been consistently committed to the Lord.
The freedom of the mind is worth fighting for. To win this battle, even for a moment, allows us to taste our other freedoms with surprising joy. We really can move about freely, think what we are led to think about and speak out of the overflow of our hearts. But to the extent that our minds are held captive, these other freedoms are held in check, unable to spread out into the spacious place in which we are privileged to live.
Ultimately, waging this battle increases our awareness that God’s promises are true. “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3). Peace? Freedom? I want it all. Including the hidden kind.