“As the Heavens are higher than the Earth, so are my ways higher than your ways. And my thoughts than your thoughts.” -Isaiah 55:9
Earthly, mundane, societal, and cultural norms are surely influential.
Almost every human person, without realizing it, is accustomed to think certain thoughts merely because society influences those ideas. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Since it’s just what we’re exposed to, we don’t know better. In addition to that, our own personal past experiences (good or bad) shape the way we perceive, partake in, or react to certain situations.
A major factor in all this is sin. Sin can create a physiological and habitual dependence on tangible and visible realities of life. Leaving us impatient with spiritual realities since they often take longer to bear fruit and require internal discipline. Sometimes it’s easier to indulge in a past vice or habit because it’s quick, material, and right at our fingertips– not to mention the battle we face from concupiscence.
People (myself included) are always settling for this earthly framework offered by the world’s standards, our friends standards, or the media’s influence. Most of the time in doing this we don’t take a step back to critically examine or test it’s relative adequacy.
But how come when the question of spiritual framework arises, most people are quick to question, examine, and doubt it’s credibility?
For many, Christianity is a restriction of freedom, joy, and true fulfillment. Yet Christians are promised that Christianity’s teaching is all of that. The insights, resources, and norms of this age-old virtuous institution need it’s followers to partake in seeing and thinking about the magnanimity of God’s omnipotence in and through all things.
Starting with one’s relationship with God– becoming one with God– through His son Jesus. Through Jesus, we can grasp a detailed example, a genuine look at how God thinks, acts, and promises the utter gift of Himself (not to mention a personal encounter). This deep oneness with God, more described as an embrace of love, is a inner connectedness that embeds human fulfillment and the vision of true reality in God’s eyes.
Right relationship with God expands our minds, enlightens our senses (in the way they were meant to be experienced), and builds sincere acts of interior charity. I would even go so far as to say that one’s inability of inner connection with God wastes human potential. Our purpose as human persons comes with a capacity for noble interior disposition. Namely, expanding our thoughts.
So often, I can come out of myself and truly exercise virtue in habits, and action, but when it comes to my thoughts, in the words of Chris Stefanick, “my mind becomes like a bad neighborhood, and I don’t want to go in there alone.”
Small mindedness reduces all thoughts to mere emotional judgments. These can be anything from the surge of jealousy that consumes you, to the inability to feel comfortable in your own skin. (Are you saying I’m fat??)
Emotional judgments effect us because deep down there’s an experience, wound, vice, or suffering that triggers an instantaneous response. The virtuous way to uproot and dive deep into that (after surrendering it to Jesus) would be a complete change in internal discipline. A contemplative prayer life, and knowledge of the life of Jesus.
The best way to explain this, in the words of Sarah Swafford, “you need to be ‘the boss of your thoughts.'”
When emotional stirrings rise up, (doubt, grief, mourning, anxiety, jealousy, hurt) firstly always remember those are NOT of God. (Gal 5). Identify why these thoughts are happening, where it’s coming from, and how true it actually may be. Consider all sides and remind yourself that your mind is also the place you can partake in deep, reflective thought and prayer.
Don’t think so much of how you perceive certain situations, but how God perceives it. Ask Him for the grace to see the situation how you see it. Recognize that in that thought there are two options you have, you can dwell and cope in it, or raise it up to higher depths in God’s goodness.
“Don’t match your pain to God’s goodness. You’ll reduce the magnanimity of theology to your small-mindedness.”
Christ came into the world, the low pits of the world, and told others to rise up and challenged them to higher strengths and abilities. Invite him into the pits of your mind that long for excellence, deep thoughts and true wisdom to restore the origins of your human heart. But you must want to open the gift of grace God want’s to give us in our desire to let Him work in and through us.
Take a moment to acknowledge that 90% of your life is spent in a messy, complex, and chaotic environment with small-minded individuals (yourself included).
Now, remind yourself that we have an offering of more. Christians strive to holdfast to the vision and lifestyle habits that offer an alternative. An amazing, noble, and enriching way of being, seeing, and thinking in the world.
The world Gospel literally means “Good News.” As in, “hey, the good news is, you don’t have to live a life of internal death! Joy, love, and authentic freedom DOES exist! *hands you a Bible* Just follow this code of conduct instead of the one you were previously following!”
The glory of God, in His fullness, is beyond our understanding but He let’s us partake in that if He chooses. The expression, “we are made in the image and likeness of God” is more like, “we are made in the image of God, and we’re trying to get His likeness back.” And in His complete generosity, He’ll gift us an experience, person, or eye-opening realization to see and partake in this likeness. This begins with a yes to Him, a deep prayer life, and a desire to live in magnanimity.
To (re)live life not according to what the world is, but according to who God is.
So forget about this list of rules, and the“do’s” and “don’ts” you think the church is about because it breeds a minimalist view. Forget the small-minded thoughts that destroy you inside. That view shields our minds and stops us from opening the depths of our hearts because sometimes “rules” neglect to show that the point of following Christ is to imitate glorious habits that are worth more. Life with Christ should enliven everything we do, not fear us away from what God says is good.
Remember, when you make the decision to strive for a life of great virtue in accordance with the Gospel through imitation of Christ, no one will understand your choice. And no explanation will suffice so don’t explain yourself. Narrow minds often neglect, even ridicule, your inner peace.
Life for many is always going to be a tangible reality. That there is nothing more than what we can grasp. Our thoughts can be nourished by this, but with God’s grace, we can overcome it.
And if you ask me, from the years I’ve spent conforming to the mold of others and tangible realities with small minded thoughts, it is quite boring and well, pretty……. lame.
God is good. Give Him the glory.