Jan Johnson

Wisbit - May 2014

Quieting Our “Inner Committee”

Listening to the voice of God is not always listening to the loudest voice in our minds.

Do your thoughts ever contradict themselves? Tell that person you’re praying for them. There you go trying to sound spiritual again.

Many of us seem to have a “committee” of different selves living in our heads. Each member has an agenda and puts forth that agenda. So when we try to be still or just be quiet, these committee members step forward and yammer at us. Even if we escort them to the door of our minds and shut that door, they show up in full dress, pounding away. Here are some typical scenes in which these committee members interrupt our times of conversation with God and make it difficult to be quiet.

As you sit in silence:

  • a thought comes to mind about a troubled family member. The Rescuer in you makes it clear you ought to do something this instant to remedy the problem now! Before you know it, you’re consumed with problem solving.
  • you think about an upcoming opportunity to serve - chairing an event, leading a group. The Picture Perfect Kid, the one who works hard and dazzles others with insightful comments, shows you how this service will increase others’ admiration of you.
  • a work situation in which you were taken advantage of pops into your head. The Victim mumbles about how “those people” don’t treat you with the respect you deserve. Should you quit? Why do they act this way? How could you get back at them?
  • the face of someone you need to forgive appears, and before you can become attentive to that person before God, the Defender rehearses what exactly you could say to that person the next time you see him or her. Let’s see, now, how will I ease into this clever comeback?
  • a past failure comes to mind. The Critic reminds you of how you lack the skills and the confidence to ever be what your family or friends call successful. Why bother trying?
  • nothing comes into your mind and so the Entertainment Junkie tells you that prayer is just too much work. Maybe you should rent a video tonight and get fixed at church tomorrow.

These are not the voice of God nudging us. They often may imitate people we have loved and revered - the well-meaning but whiny, grouchy relative; the demeaning, demanding teacher. They represent our inner neediness yet to be healed. They sometimes echo the trends of our culture: grab more, achieve more, do something. If you have this committee in your head, don’t be discouraged. It’s only a sign that you’re human.

Facing and quieting these committee members is a part of our spiritual formation. First, it helps to name our committee members. You may want to draw a rectangle to represent a table where the committee members sit, and then write their names around that table. Then, think of what truth combats each one. For example, the Critic needs to be told that we grow with “progress, not perfection” (Phil 2:13). These truthful answers become replacements for their voices. These replacements are the truths we need to soak in today to move us away from the debilitating things that drive us and nudge us toward God who is eager to embrace us and transform us into the person we want to become. This movement toward the “mind of Christ” maybe the most important, life-altering thing we do today.

Grace and peace,
Jan Johnson

© Jan Johnson  excerpted and chapter 10 of When the Soul Listens.



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