"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Stopping the Replays

Let's face it. We hurt one another. Every person has been hurt by others and has hurt others. We know as believers that we are to forgive. We can make that decision (out of obedience to Christ) but, how do we stop the mental replays of the offense?

This is where it’s helpful to understand a little about how the mind works. I think it is built into us to solve problems. So we have a tendency to turn issues over in our minds until we find a solution. When this tendency to turn things over, to repeatedly run the movie in our head, becomes an obsession, it stops being helpful. In fact, it can feed anger and “give the devil a foothold” (Eph. 4:26-27). The most harmful part is that it takes our focus off of Jesus, and it unplugs us from the Holy Spirit (our counselor and the source of our power). Sometimes we have to decide that the only “solution” to a past event is to learn a lesson from it and give it to God.

The thing about obsessive thinking is: the more you try to stop it, the more powerful it becomes. You are like an imaginary matador who tries to overpower the bull by meeting it head on. A successful matador is aware of the bull, is not surprised by it or anything it does, but steps aside with grace until the bull passes (and eventually wears him out). So our best control (so to speak) of the movies in our heads, if we are obsessive thinkers, is to take note of them, not be surprised by them, ask God if there is anything we need to learn from them, and if not, give them to God and change the channel.

Changing the channel can be done in a number of ways, such as setting tangible goals and focus, intentionally thinking about the needs of another, praying for others, and scripture meditation. So we are not trying to stop thinking about the obsession so much as we are redirecting our thoughts and energies into positive things.

I love to choose a scripture, especially when I am in emotional pain, and meditate on it phrase by phrase. As I do so, repeating each phrase, I invite the Holy Spirit to teach me what it means to me right now, today, in this difficult situation. He is faithful to do so, and I am training my mind and heart to turn to God and his Word. A couple of favorites are:

Colossians 3:15

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”

And Philippians 4:8-9

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

This is another place where letter writing to God can be especially helpful. Lay out your hurts, your fears and even your anger like David did. Then ask God to help you know whether or not to take any action to resolve the problem. If you have tried and the issue remains unresolved, or if there is nothing to be done, ask God to deal with the other person as he sees fit, and let it go. Again, end by handing it all over to God. I like to literally write the words: “God, I give such and such over to you, because you are God, and I, thankfully, am not.” Replaying the movie in our head, so to speak, is a form of obsessive thinking. Writing about it is a tried and true tool to help us let it go for a while, and communicating and giving it to God keeps you in a good relationship with the Holy Spirit.

I think it’s no coincidence that Jesus taught so clearly on forgiveness. We forgive because we want our Father’s forgiveness; we want to restore full fellowship with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Then he taught us to go beyond just letting someone off the hook when he commanded that we pray that they be blessed:

Luke 24:27-28

“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

Jesus knew how hard this would be for us, but it was not a suggestion. It was a clear teaching—a command! We need the Holy Spirit to do this, and he is ready, willing and able to help us accomplish what is commanded. When the person or the incident comes to mind, one way to radically give it to God is to pray for the person who hurt you. In the beginning, you might do it out of duty—because Jesus said so. Eventually, the Spirit does a miracle in your heart and helps you mean the words you say. But forgiving in this way is a commitment—you may want to take it back when a new memory or injury occurs. You have to commit to forgive and bless the person even when you don’t feel like it. That is what commitment means.

The blessing hidden in this command is that we are set free. We are released from the cycle of obsessive thinking. We stop "drinking poison every day hoping it will hurt the other person." In setting them free (from our judgment and desire to punish) we discover that we, ourselves, are free.

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