A Chaotic Mind and the Way of Death
Have you ever walked into a room, only to forget why you went? Or have you opened your email with a purpose, gone down a rabbit trail of responses, and closed out your email without accomplishing your original goal?
We live in an age of distraction. It's frustrating. We lament it. And we do it to ourselves. Henri Nouwen puts it well:
"As soon as we are alone... inner chaos opens up in us. This chaos can be so disturbing and so confusing that we can hardly wait to get busy again. Entering a private room and shutting the door, therefore, does not mean that we immediately shut out all our inner doubts, anxieties, fears, bad memories, unresolved conflicts, angry feelings and impulsive desires. On the contrary, when we have removed our outer distraction, we often find that our inner distraction manifests themselves to us in full force. We often use the outer distractions to shield ourselves from the interior noises." - Henri Nouwen (Making All Things New)
Here's the painful truth: we sabotage our lives with busyness, noise, and distractions because we’re scared of silence. We’re not comfortable sitting with ourselves.
We're frightened to sit in the presence of God. Sure he loved and saved me back then. But how will he receive me now?
The problem goes deeper still
A distracted mind seems harmless enough, yet chronic monkey-mind is taking over our world like a planet of the ape's prequel.
Think I'm being melodramatic. Listen to Curt Thomson:
"Attention is the function that drives the movement of neuroplasticity (your brain's ability to change)... Ultimately we become what we pay attention to, and the options available to us at any time are myriad... what we pay attention to doubles back and governs us." - Curt Thompson (The Soul of Shame)
Intensifying the problem, the apostle Paul links our attention to life or death:
For those who live according to the sinful nature set their minds on sinful things, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the sinful nature is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. - Romans 8:5-6
You may think you're a victim of the fear, lust, anger, shame, despair, etc. that drives you to fixate and obsess. However, hundreds of commands tell us to stay alert (just a few: Mt 6:26, 24:42; Rom 12:2; Phil 4:8; Col 3:1-2; 2 Tm 2:7; 2 Pt 1:19).
Calm Your Mind and Live
David describes a life of calm:
O LORD, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me (v.1).
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me (v.2). - Psalm 131:1-2
In verse one, David refuses to think about everything.
In verse two, David focuses his attention on one thing — the presence of the Lord.
We can do the same. It takes energy and effort, but a calm mind is possible with some practice.
This is why I created the Pause to Reset newsletter — to help others slow down, pay attention to Jesus, and experience life with God.
What's keeping you today from calming yourself in the Lord's presence?