No Longer Muddling
Do you ever struggle with ruminating over a thought or even a situation that is not helpful to you? Maybe you go over what someone said or did that seemed wrong. Or maybe you rehearse about how you need to defend yourself in certain situations or with certain people. We can, if we let ourselves, obsess on anything – how we look, what we need to do, or why we deserve more credit. (If you have heard me talk about the “committee that lives in your head,” this might be the attitude police.)
I’ve struggled with this most of my life, making great progress but never quite getting rid of it. One strategy that has worked well is replacing that self-talk with blessing the other person or situation (“Bless X through me”) or praying for them. When I can’t think of what to pray, I fall back on the words from Phil 1:9 “That their love might abound more and more with knowledge and discernment.” And if I’m annoyed, I confess I spit out those words knowledge and discernment because I want them to improve! While my muddling has improved, it has also continued to linger.
Then recently I began meditating on Psalm 16, especially verse 8a: “I set the LORD always before me.” I’ve been attempting to it by making a deliberate choice to focus on God’s presence and to hang out with God all day long.
While meditating on this phrase, a picture came to me. I am sitting at a table with Jesus. We’re at a seaside café staring out the window together. (You might prefer Starbucks.)
Then I sensed a challenge (from the Spirit?) that every single time I begin to obsess on something, I instead have to sit down at that table and talk it out with Jesus. So I asked God for help to do this.
Things have changed. Now when I begin to ruminate and even obsess over what was said or what should be done, I catch myself about a sentence into the rant and put myself at the table with Jesus having the conversation. I stop and say directly to Jesus, “Help me bless that person (or situation).” Many times after making the switch to the Jesus-at-the-table scene, I’ve felt silly bringing up that same old thing again to Jesus. I’ve sensed him grinning and saying, “Do we have to go there again?” At times, he has added, “I’m working with that person (or situation). You don’t have to do anything about it, OK?” Of course, I know the next line: “But just keep a right heart about it all.” Then I drop it – really! And I just enjoy being at the table with Jesus – setting the Lord always before me. This relational approach has been something of a breakthrough for me so I thought I’d pass it on.
So you might want to borrow it and try it out. My guess is that it works well for me because it did come from God and so it’s tailored to me. It’s one more scene in a long line of images over the years where Jesus and I sit together somewhere – on a bench or across the table from a difficult person. (See p. 71 of the personal retreat guide Trusting God for Everything: Psalm 23, if you have it.) So another image might work better for you – one God gives you and that is familiar to you. Whatever image you use, it needs elements such as a surrendering the issue to Jesus and kind acceptance by Jesus. We need to sense God encouraging us and being with us in it, instead of condemning us.
This is grace – empowerment from God – to move toward having the mind of Christ, willing and wanting to “keep the LORD always before me.”
Grace and peace,
© Jan Johnson – For permission to reprint, Click Here