When you hear the word, “Mindful”, what does it mean to you? Is it just another buzzword that people throw around willy nilly on the internet when they discuss mental health? A trend that will likely pass and be replaced by something newer and more helpful in a few months? Or perhaps it’s some woo-woo concept you’ve heard, Becca, your friend who’s really gotten into yoga and meditation, talk about lately. Whatever the case may be, it’s likely you’ve never considered mindfulness to be an integral part of your Christian walk…but it is and has been since the inception of The Bible!
Now before you scoff, roll your eyes at that seemingly audacious statement and banish this little blog post into the oblivion of your internet history, let’s quickly read 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 together:
3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
In other words, God expects us to learn to control our minds. Our thoughts. Our emotions. Everything that passes between our two ears is our responsibility alone to manage and then re-align with the mind of Christ. Day in and day out.
Sound exhausting? Yes! It is. It’s one of the most difficult and tiring things one can do; to be consciously and constantly aware of our thoughts. But when we signed up to walk the straight and narrow path, hopefully we didn’t check the, “Do the bare minimum to technically be seen as a Christian by maintaining the status quo in my community, feel good about myself and get all of the perks with the least effort possible” box. That’s called being passive. A person with this attitude chooses to sleepwalk through their life; never really questions why they do the things they do; and is perfectly okay with this. This is a way of life that many, if not most people, have chosen to experience during their short time here on earth over the centuries…simply because it’s easier.
Comparatively, to do this thing called being a Christian right, we must be ACTIVE participants in our lives by starting from the foundation of what makes us sentient. Bringing focus to the things that ultimately control our resulting actions, which so often gets us into trouble when we’re not monitoring them carefully. Our thoughts.
As a society, it seems like we’ve forgotten how to simply be alone with our thoughts and emotions. In fact, many of us are subconsciously terrified by this concept because we have so many unprocessed thoughts, traumas and emotions piled up in our mental que–often stemming all the way back to our childhoods–that it feels too overwhelming to begin working through them now. So, as a quick fix for our problems, we’ve learned to fill every moment with busywork and entertainment to keep ourselves from starting this seemingly unsafe process, eventually slipping into the allure of being on autopilot. The exact place Satan wants us to be. Prone and susceptible to suggestion without being aware it’s even happening.
If it was up to us alone, most would stay in this vegetative and vulnerable state until we die; choosing to live in our own warped reality because it gives us a false sense of control and security for a time. But God, because He knows how we operate and loves us too much to experience life this way, created our brains to work in a very specific way. Like a computer with too much unprocessed data in its system, eventually our brains will begin to malfunction or freeze up, sending warning signals to our bodies. Trying to let us know that something is desperately wrong and needs to be addressed. In comes anxiety, depression, panic attacks, mental health disorders and chronic physical illnesses. All symptoms of a problem lying deeper under the surface. Thoughts, memories and emotions that have gone unchecked for too long.
If you’ve ever experienced any of these symptoms, did you respond by being thankful? Saying to yourself, “Wow! I’m so glad my brain and body are working properly by letting me know I have some issues I need to address!” Of course not! Most of us just get angry and annoyed that our sweet bliss of the quick fix is no longer working, then frantically begin looking for new solutions to hopefully relieve the discomfort we’re experiencing as soon as possible. Pushing ourselves deeper and deeper into the false realities we’ve created for ourselves.
The more we refuse to be mindful by looking at our thoughts, emotions or face reality for what it is, the easier it is to start falling into the cycle of addiction: alcohol, smoking, recreational or prescription drugs, working constantly, technology, sex/porn, developing unhealthy eating behaviors, etc; all ways of trying to fix our problems on our own, because we’re scared. We’re effectively showing God, through our actions, that we don’t trust Him or believe that He wants the best for us.
Perhaps not everyone will get to this particular level of dysfunction due to your unique life circumstances and experiences, but hopefully it helped illustrate the point of just how easy it could be for anyone to fall into this painful cycle. And it all starts simply with not knowing how to think properly (often from a young age) and being unwilling to learn or change with God’s help as He lovingly presents solutions to pull you out of it.
But this phenomenon isn’t something new or unique to our time. Paul writes about this exact issue in 1 Thessalonians 5:6-10:
6 “So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. 9 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.”
As you can see, two of the hallmarks of being a Christian are being awake (grounded in reality) and having a sober mind. And to do this, you have to be willing to search yourself with faith, love, and the hope of salvation.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit, I used to really only search myself the month or so before the Passover. But being awake to our thoughts isn’t just something we’re expected to do one month out of the year. It should be a constant, daily practice to take a step back, analyze your headspace and ask yourself questions. For example: “Why did I just respond to my mom in such a disrespectful way? Am I holding some sort of resentment against her? If so, what is it and where did it come from? Okay…now that I know the origin of this deep-rooted resentment, how can I resolve this so we can improve our relationship?”
This creates a healthy dialogue and curiosity about why we do the things we do not only with ourselves, but it also opens up some wonderful opportunities to talk to God in a vulnerable way, as we parse through our minds. We build trust as we give Him the hurt we all have inside (once it presents itself to us) and ask Him to replace the hurt with something new and pure, so we can become more and more like Christ and less like ourselves. The whole purpose of this temporary training ground that we’re currently experiencing!
God is calling us to be different, for our own benefit. Spiritually, physically and emotionally. To live more fully in this lifetime and to help make better decisions for ourselves and the people we love. But it will take time, consistency and conscious effort to get there.
So. Are you ready to give being mindful a try?