Here’s something you may or may not know about me: I think about everything. I think about the state of the world- its beauty, darkness, joys and tragedies, the billions of lives and their interconnected-ness, the simultaneous small-ness and significance of the individual.
I think about my friend’s problems with her family and how hard it must be to navigate that and about the man of unknown origin who plays the violin on the street corner near Oxford Circus. I wonder if he has a family to feed and how he keeps such a bright smile on his face every morning when I smile hello, not wishing to interrupt his playing because I used to play the violin too, though he plays better than I ever did.
I think about the Big Issue seller further down the street whose name I think I once asked but then forgot, and each time I pass him on my way to work I think I ought to say more than good morning. If I wasn’t always hurrying because I should have left the house earlier, maybe I could stop and find out his story.
I think about Mary the homeless lady because she is no longer part of my commute home and I wonder where she is.
I think about my work, and some days this leads to unnecessary weight being taken home with me. How often I am sobered and saddened. But a desire for truth and for God’s Kingdom established on Earth compels me to get up the next day and keep doing it. I think about how grateful I am to be there at all, and how blessed to experience the moments of office laughter and joy, and the intelligent, stimulating discussions and lively exchanges of wit.
I ask a lot of questions – some to myself, some to God, some to people I can’t ask directly, so those questions circle, unanswered, on a carousel in this mind of mine.
I think about the point of everything. I wonder how that person really is underneath the brisk ‘fine’, and why the heck I said that.
I think about the size of the universe and the minuscule, but loved, specks that we are. I marvel that He breathed and billions of giant burning stars came into being.
I ask myself if I really like London.
I exhaust myself!
I probably exhausted you making you read that, and there’s a lot I left unsaid because nobody is that open about themselves.
In the jumble of ponderings, memories, ideas, hopes and questions that compete for my attention, is a mixture of good, bad and downright ugly.
The uglier parts can spiral off into their own saga if left unrestrained.
Indeed they have contributed to past bouts of depression.
Too often negativity, fear, self-pity (and self-absorption) can blind me to fundamental truths about God and my security in Him. There’s a reason why God’s Word tells us to take every thought captive, after all.
I am whole, loved, forgiven, seated in heavenly places with Christ, a citizen of Heaven. I am not alone. I am enough. I am under His provision and His protection.
The Bible tells me all of these things, but in looking too long at myself, my life and my problems, if indeed problems they can really be called, these truths can get smothered.
God’s Word also tells me that as a new creation in Him, I have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:16).
In my experience of living out this life-in-Christ, here are some things I believe I am beginning to grasp about what that means.
Firstly, thinking like Christ does not happen without purposefully coming away with Him. If my priority is myself, my thoughts will naturally be self-directed. It is looking on Christ that gives me eyes to see others like He does. The difference is very clear to me and it is all too easy to slip back into my old nature.
There is something the Lord is teaching me, too, about coming to Him for no other reason than loving Him because He is God, awesome and holy and just.
My housemate is lending me a book at the moment called The Spiritual Adventure, by Madame Jeanne Guyon, written somewhere between 1648 and 1717 (which is her lifetime – I couldn’t find the date of the book’s publication).
This woman understood experiential relationship and tangible communion with the Lord. I don’t have to convince most of my readers, I’m sure, that this is entirely biblical and anything less is hardly worth pursuing, but perhaps that is another blog post altogether.
It may interest you to know that this woman was condemned by the Church at the time, branded a madwoman and a heretic, even imprisoned in the Bastille for speaking of what she experienced in her walk with Christ. (It may also interest you to know that John and Charles Wesley were great admirers of her work).
Accordingly, this book is not for the faint of heart. She does not shy away from the subject of suffering – indeed she emphasises its necessity for our refinement, our testing and commitment to loving the Lord for Him alone. This is not easy to stomach in our culture of comfort and ease, but I am utterly convinced, a somewhat naive youth having experienced mere shadows of such suffering, that she was correct. I would not be where I am, far as I have to go, without seasons of trial. The Lord made that very clear to me last year. Those seasons, too, are part of having the mind of Christ; to accept the suffering with the joy.
But to arrive at my original point, which is this: She talks of coming to the very end of yourself.
There has to be no self-interest or motivation when coming to God, in order to truly live out His will. Mme Guyon says that it should not even be about feeling God’s presence, because even in that there is an element of self-interest. Although God’s tangible presence is beautiful and His delight to offer to us, I have many times come before God and felt nothing. I am beginning to understand that this is, perhaps, God’s way of testing whether my love for Him is truly pure – not out of manipulation, but simply because a selfishly-motivated love will not stand under trial. How can it?
It comes back to surrender, a theme that has chased me for a year and more, and every time I think I have learned that lesson, it resurfaces and once again I am challenged.
Mme Guyon touches on something in her book that certainly resonated with me: would I give up my reputation? Since starting my current job, I have had to ask myself this over and over again, as I have begun to see how much misunderstanding, slander and criticism (even from other Christians) is part of making a public stand for Christ. Whatever my future holds, I am certain that this will only increase if I am truly committed to living out God’s will. I have to be ok with being totally misunderstood – hated, even.
Romans 12:2 is one of my favourite verses because, at least to me, it sums up so much of how to ‘do’ the Christian walk. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Seeing situations, people and possibilities through the mind of Christ, secure in His love and clothed in His strength, it is far easier to live for Him. So, too, must it be easier to live single-minded, so secure in the truth of God’s Word and in experienced truth of His nature, that it would take much to be distracted by empty philosophies. How much harder for the enemy of our souls to ensnare us.
I am encouraged to know that this life is possible, notwithstanding my frequent defaulting back to a ‘worldly’ perspective, which however wise it may appear can only bear a faint semblance; a shadow of the fullness of living in Christ.
Isaiah 26:3 promises: “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”
There is true rest to be found. There is peace, joy and wholeness to be found in Him, who is all of these things – but to have the mind of Christ also means to lay down that self-preservation so common to our fleshly natures, and model Jesus’ servant heart.
To reiterate what I mentioned earlier, this is much easier to do when looking on Him and worshipping Him. The greatest joy and peace are found in the moments when your attention is fixed away from yourself.
There is still work to be done and a life to be lived though – I can’t spend my days locked in my bedroom spending time with the Lord in such a purposeful manner. Right now I am in a place of figuring out how to have Jesus’ heart for this world and yet know His peace throughout the day. To engage with these uncomfortable issues yet lay them at His feet. To think little of myself, yet be secure in His love for me, and know that in this seeming paradox is positioning, to accomplish the tasks He has set before me.