Saturday, August 11, 2012

When You Can't Snap Out of It, What Do You Do?

Anybody else notice a subterranean vibe of negativity, despair and hopelessness in the air?  Let me offer some carefully and prayerfully considered pastoral advice - the kind of thing that can only be discerned through years of theological and spiritual training.  Are you ready?  Here is it.  Snap out of it, already! 

Okay, you cannot actually "snap" out of it.  But you can begin to do things and connect with people and engage with ideas that over time will get you out of the sea of negativity that so many seem to be in.  More than that, you may even be able to bring some folks with you. 

Positive Ideas
Let's take my above list in reverse order, and first talk about engaging with positive ideas.  A wise and mature person will always carefully select on what they will allow their mind to dwell. You cannot help the kinds of thoughts that enter your mind.  Sometimes they will be positive, and at other times negative.  That's just life.  But the thoughts you hold onto and develop and allow to marinate in your mind - well, that's another matter.  In Romans 8, Paul says that the mind set on the flesh (all the junk of this world) is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life.  Paul knew that every thought has a little positive or negative charge to it taking us a bit closer either to life or to death.  Your thoughts lay out for you a picture of the world into which you are walking.  You get to choose what that picture looks like.  

This is not a call to self-deception by putting on rose-colored glasses.  This is a call to focus on the good that actually is before you, and to disallow distractions that would derail your pursuit of that good.  So read the Scriptures.  Read other good books.  Listen to uplifting music and encouraging podcasts.  Fill your mind with positive, life-giving ideas.

Positive People
The second is to engage with positive  people.  Doug Flieds talks about hanging around VIP's in your life.  These are people who validate you, improve you and pray for you.  These are the kinds of people we all need.  One of my best friends challenged me right after I got married with respect to how I treated my wife, turning everything she said into a joke, and treating her with a general lack of respect.  He was gracious, but his remarks were right to the point and painful to hear.  My first response was visceral and I could feel my blood pressure rise.  But then the Holy Spirit stepped and prompted the thought in my mind, "Your friend is right."  And because of his friendship and his ongoing prayers for me and my wife, things changed and got better.  I changed and got better.  Even my wife will say it's so.  

But the only reason my friend could say that to me is that I knew he loved me.  I knew he had no agenda other than the best for me as his friend.  This same friend also improves me in another way.  He is one of the kindest, most compassionate people I know.  When I am around him, I find myself becoming more kind and compassionate as well.  It just kind of rubs off.  That's how it works.  We tend to pick up, for good or bad, bits and pieces of the character of those with whom we choose to associate.  We need positive people like my friend in our lives, and the best way to get one is to become one for someone else.

Positive Actions
The final encouragement is to do positive things.  Actions become habits.  Positive actions become positive habits and positive habits dominate our thoughts.  You really can climb out of any hole you find yourself in by taking one step at a time, and that is what each positive action is - a step.  I cannot remember who said it, but it is very true that more than anything in your past, who you are today is shaped by the person you set your mind to become.  

I am not talking about doing one positive thing a day.  I am talking about doing positive things as a way of life.  It is the conscious effort to engage every person, every conversation, every challenge, every activity, every task, every dream, every setback with a mindset guided by this one dominant thought: "Whatever else I do as I walk into what is ahead, I will do everything I can to bless and lift someone up, and I will honor the One who has given me the life I am so privileged to live."  What I think a lot of us will find if we commit to this, is that much of what we do cannot be made to fit into that kind of a mindset.  We will have to change some of the things - maybe, many of the things - that we do. 

But if over time and with prayer, we will engage with positive people, focus our minds on positive thoughts, and order our steps into positive activities, it will feel as though we have snapped out of the negativity and hopelessness that seem to be dominant themes in the lives of so many.

May you begin to think positive thoughts as you engage with Scripture and consider the ways and teachings of Jesus.  May you find yourself surrounded with people who will validate, improve and pray for you, even as you do for them.  And may you live your life in such a way  that even in a sea of negativity, it injects a contagious, positive change into every life and situation you encounter.  And as your life is marked by an increasingly positive trajectory, may you find the grace to reach out and bring others with you. 

1 comment:

  1. I sometimes think I'm about to snap. Now, I need to snap out of it? :-) Very thoughtful and open reading. Thanks for addressing the rose colored glasses aspect.
    FUMC congregant Gregg Parks