August is a turning point for me—no more excuses! I will finally have to admit, having fought it for several years, that I am truly a senior citizen. Once one’s eighth decade looms, it is hard to pretend otherwise! Hopefully one of the trade-offs will be spending more time in reflection and pondering life with Jesus and with others who have pondered with him before me. A quote I ran across from Henri Nouwen is one of those gifts:
“As soon as we begin to divide our thoughts into thoughts about God and thoughts about other things like people and events, we separate God from our daily life. At that point God is allocated to a pious little niche in some corner of our lives where we only think pious thoughts and experience pious feelings. Although it is important…for our spiritual lives to set apart time for God and God alone, our prayer can only become unceasing when all our thoughts—beautiful or ugly, high or low, proud or shameful, sorrowful or joyful—can be thought in the presence of the one who dwells in us and surrounds us. By trying to do this, our unceasing thinking is converted into unceasing prayer, moving us from a self-centred monologue to a God-centred dialogue…The main question, therefore is not so much what we think, but to whom we present our thoughts.”
That phrase ‘moving us from a self-centred monologue’ caught my attention. I happen to be one of those who does re-runs of situations, of conversations, of what should have been said, of what might have been meant, or not meant, etc. I am the Queen of Re-runs! And re-runs like that are nothing if they are not a self-centred monologue. If I were presenting all of those thoughts to God rather than letting them go around and round in ever tighter circles in my own mind, those thoughts could be re-formed; the situation could be brought down to size, rather than looming ever larger. I can see it is by this practice of consciously presenting my thoughts to God that I can live in the reality that I am always in his presence, and God is always stronger, wiser, more capable than any of my present ‘enemies’ as David often prayed. I don’t have armies I’m facing but the difficulties I do have are truly enemies of my free-flowing relationship with my God. When I can allow my thoughts to be reshaped in this way by his presence, my belief in and trust in Him deepens.
Most of us have spent our adult lives trying hard to mould ourselves around the biblical principles we knew so well. Unfortunately, one day we found we were making ourselves in our own image—maybe even our own best image—and we were trusting in principles, not in our King. When pressure mounts, our instincts are usually either fear or the overwhelming need to do something, forgetting, because of the urgency of the problems facing us, that we were not made to live in our own best image of ourselves but to live in God’s image. We were made to present our thoughts to God, let him re-shape them and in the process reform our thinking to be more Christ-like. But those natural responses to difficult situations, those instinctive reactions we come up with when trials like this virus – the loss of our jobs or our freedoms, the fracture of a relationship come upon us – all drive us either to take action of some kind or to mentally sit and brood on it and become demoralized and depressed. Neither of these instinctive reactions which I’ve often found myself resorting to, were undertaken after presenting all my thoughts to him. As Nouwen said, whether they be “beautiful or ugly, high or low, proud or shameful, sorrowful or joyful,” presenting them to him, consciously admitting and sharing thoughts with him as they occur, allows the work of the Spirit to shape and reshape them long before they become the unfortunate words or actions which so easily come tumbling out when I’m under pressure and long before I have worried myself sick and brooded on oft-recycled thoughts to my own mental detriment. As Erma Bombeck succinctly puts it: “Worry is like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere.” But sharing thoughts with him rather than instantly reacting or brooding on a situation allows us to gain a new perspective, a more godly heart.
The Psalmist’s advice for senior living says it well: “Help us to remember that our days are numbered, and help us to interpret our lives correctly. Set your wisdom deep in our heart so that we may accept your correction.” Psa. 90:12 TPT
So in this, my eighth decade, as proverbially I ponder in my rocking chair, I am going to make a sincere effort to give up my hard-earned title, ‘Queen of the Re-runs’, and consciously give over my day-to-day thoughts to the One who can reshape them within me, to mould me into a senior in his image.