As a little girl sitting in church several (ok, many) years ago, I really did my best to listen and learn. Much went over my head, but much also stuck. Pastor Goode had so many quips and idioms. They are lodged in my brain and now, 20 years since his death, they still inform my life. One of my favorites was and continues to be “the one about a bird”. He always said, “You can’t keep the birds from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from building a nest in your hair.
Interestingly enough, since then I have seen the same quote attributed to Martin Luther and Ancient Chinese wisdom. Oh well… in my mind it will always have come from my childhood Midwestern pastor.
You see, as a child (and to this day, if I’m not careful) I would obsess over every untrue, unkind, unBiblical thought. I would feel guilty for the initial thought, and then I would enter this vicious cycle of wondering/worrying as to why I even thought it in the first place! You can image the freedom I found in realizing that birds may circle, I have no power over that. But I can control how long they linger. Instead of worrying and watching the skies for danger, I learned to focus my energy on the “nests.” The sinful actions and patterns of behavior that were already forming in real time. The idea of doing battle with what is in front of me, not with what might come.
So fast forward several years: I am finding some victory in this area. I’m working at controlling my thinking. Things are better. In the midst of that however, I began to realize a new habit developing…that of working to control everything. It’s a struggle for me, this illusion of control. And before I knew it, it was affecting how I viewed my Spiritual growth. “Just control your thoughts, Kelly, that’s the win!” In fact, that’s one of my favorite verses….II Corinthians 10:5 says, “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ…”
Right there! The Bible gave me a command to control! I was supposed to take every thought captive. Control my thinking. Control freaks unite! And don’t misunderstand me, there is much good to be gained by working to control our thinking, but I had missed out on the depth of meaning of the last line of the verse.
“…. to the obedience of Christ.”
And with that, I lose my illusion of control. I shatter the belief that I am sufficient in and of myself to control my thoughts and feelings, and instead I submit those thoughts and feelings “to the obedience of Christ,” the one who IS in control.
So that begs the question… what does that look like? Capturing a thought and then submitting it to the obedience of Christ… Though not comprehensive, here is how God has grown me in this area.
Taking captive the thought: Quickly identifying the thought as negative/sinful/untrue/etc. And “quickly” is important. God doesn’t command us to “harbor” the thought; to let it stew and fester and consume our time and energy and joy before we decide what to do about it. Take captive means to seize, arrest, nab, catch. Do it quickly.
Submit it to the obedience of Christ. Step one takes work Arresting and seizing a thought is not always easy. But the work doesn’t stop there. The pay off and the true joy and peace come with submission. Submitting that thought to the grid of what you know to be true of Jesus Christ – His person, His character. His promises. Truths like…
He loves me.
He loves _____________ (person you might be in conflict with).
He is working all things for my good and His glory.
He allows trials to purify and grow me.
He has promised His Spirit to empower me.
He has prepared eternity for me, this life is not everything.
He is sovereign.
He can be trusted.
And the exciting thing is, He is Faithful! He shows up in the middle of our struggle and His Spirit reminds us of all we have in Him. I am so thankful that He is in the business of helping us knock the nests out of our hair…
Written by Children’s Director Kelly Curtis