Mind Games

The heart is an astounding entity. It’s difficult to describe love, yet man will never cease to write, read, watch, and pursue its story.

Just as powerful, is the mind. Our internal dialogue holds a greater amount of force over us than we realize.

Over the course of the last couple weeks, I have been quietly taking a step back and analyzing my thought-patterns and heart-state. In Leadership Studies (at Kansas State University), we would refer to this as “getting up on the balcony” – taking a moment to get to a higher vantage point to examine, and consider, what is. You’ll learn a lot about yourself in the process, if you give it a try.

Here’s what I’m learning about myself and mankind’s general thought-process…

We inevitably have trained thought-patterns. If your coworkers are negative, then you are twice as likely to be negative as well, because your brain begins to connect-the-dots and look for things you’re dissatisfied/frustrated with as well. If every time you see a mirror and look into it with the question, “What’s wrong with my appearance today?” then you are bound to walk away unhappy. The problem is perpetuated if you live in America, because mirrors are everywhere. And if every time you see a mirror, you’re going to ridicule yourself, you’re going to be very, very hurt (and the crazy thing is – you’re the one hurting you – no one else, in most cases, has even contributed to the negative-perception).

The mind is malicious sometimes. America’s culture has trained the mind to judge quickly. “She’s hot. She’s not. Ehhhh, maybe if her face wasn’t so square.” Guys make snap-judgments about other guys at the gym, ALL THE TIME, too. “He’s a gym-rat, so all he’ll wanna talk about is protein-shakes and the latest trendy workout.” And my favorite, “Well, at least I’m in better shape than him…”

Here’s the good news – we have the power to redirect our thought-patterns.

I like to go on walks occasionally. It gets me away from the constant hum of the television and the busy chatter of a very full, lively house, so that I can actually take some time to think. Last night, as I walked through my neighborhood, I began to think… My thoughts started off in downcast state – considering my inability to reach goals, varying flaws, uncertainties, etc. It was overwhelming me. Then, I remembered that I had made the decision to redirect my thoughts – to bring out the internal traffic-police and send every thought in a healthier direction.

So I began to pray. I lifted up my concerns and anxieties to the LORD, leaving them there. I’m candid and honest when I pray. There is no point in using big, fancy words, or in trying to appear holy and content, because God already knows me. He’s well-aware of my heart and just wants me to share all of it with Him. So I did. All of it. I laid it all out there – honest, concise, rebellious, and needy – He took me as I was and loved me still.

Something beautiful began to happen as I gave my anxiety to God. I found the strength to find things in life that I appreciated, and suddenly, my heart was overflowing with gratitude and joy. I prayed for, and thanked the LORD, for my deep friendships with guys like Brad, Bryce, Joey, and Jake. I found myself thankful for the strength to fight depression, despite its’ rather persistent grasp on my heart sometimes.

And then the tears came. I cried good, healthy, heart-felt tears. “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Lord.” – over and over again. It was beautiful, and suddenly, even if just for a moment, there was peace.

You can fight the mind-games that occur within. You can choose to not climb the mountain of despair and to rather climb the mountain of joy.

As you look for the positive, more positive things inevitably pop up – your mind starts connecting-the-dots in a positive direction. “Wow, I find myself appreciative of coworkers that go out of their way to assist me, today. And PRAISE THE LORD FOR COFFEE. And for friends. And for hugs. And for family. And for that customer that insisted on letting my boss know I’m ‘awesome’. Hey, life’s not so bad…”

The world could use a little more gratitude and a little less cynicism.

It’s a mind-game, really.

Spiritual warfare often occurs within your head – darkness wants you to plunge into the pit of despair, while the Father of Lights waits for you to reach the edge of the ring and tag Him into the fight for you. I’m amazed at how often satan manages to persuade me to box myself. I’m in the metaphorical boxing-ring, taking jab-after-jab – only to realize that my fists are the ones striking my face.

But we can fight back. Better yet, God can fight for us.

We train our bodies to become healthy and fit. We train our diets to keep from becoming sick or too skinny/overweight. It’s time we consider how to train our minds – to be ready for battle. Like the Hunger Games, the Mind Games are a death-match between light and dark – good and evil – man versus himself and his opposition. But we can form an alliance with God. We don’t have to fight alone.

During World War II, no one country would have stood a chance against Germany and the Axis Powers on their own – the Allied Forces won, because they had allies. We need allies, too. It’s okay to bring Jesus in. In fact, it’s basically 100% necessary. And it’s HEALTHY, even a sign of maturity, to bring others into the ring with you.

I believe men can find strength in tears shed – in vulnerable openness with each other, letting the light shine. When that happens, joy floods in and dethrones despair. When you turn on the light in a dark room, does darkness remain?

Let darkness rule no longer. Bright in the Light. Fight.

His Kingdom Come,
Justin

mind games

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