26 October 2010

Meditation: "Distorted Thinking"

"I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!" --Stuart Smalley (aka Comedian Al Franken)

"I place before you Life and Death, Blessing and Curse. Choose life so that you and your children will live. And love God, your God, listening obediently to [God], firmly embracing [God]. Oh yes, [God] is life itself..." --Deuteronomy 30:19 from Eugene Peterson's paraphrase of the Bible called "The Message"

Dear Friends,

My beautiful nearly 6-year-old daughter Miriam is a delightful girl. But she has her moments, as we all do. Sometimes, when she discovers that an activity she really wants to do is not going to happen, at least not that day, she loudly wails with tears brimming "I'm never going to get to..." fill in the blank--go to the zoo, have an ice cream cone, play with my friend, etc. Never?! Really?!

I find this irritating until I remember what I sometimes grumble to myself in the morning, "Grrr...I did not get enough sleep. Today is just going to be an awful day..." Or, on a Sunday morning, with my sermon under-prepared and my brain sleep-deprived, I think, "Oh, worship is gonna be just awful today."

WAIT! Awful?! Really?! Does it have to be?

This is what my social worker spouse might call “distorted thinking.” Without trying to talk too much about something I don't really understand, cognitive behavioral theory tells us that how we think about something shapes our reality. At the risk of totally oversimplifying, this theory is pretty much the same as saying that if you think it's going to be a lousy day, it probably will be!

The solution, obviously, is intentionally thinking about the situation differently. So for example, nearly every Sunday morning as I ride my bike to church to participate in and lead worship, I say—out loud!--“O God, worship this morning is going to be GREAT! O God, my sleep-deprivation and my under-preparation are no obstacle to you. Worship today is going to be GREAT because YOU are going to show up!” And I can tell you that when I do this, when I specifically seek to counter my “distorted thinking”, by the grace of God it always changes things. God's Holy Spirit meets me where I seek to overturn my distorted thinking, and reality is shaped in a new, life-giving direction. Not always exactly as I would want, but virtually always for the better.

Maybe like me, you can identify times in your life when you slip into “distorted thinking.” I hope and pray, that by God's grace, you will choose to think about the situation differently, more hopefully, and invite God to meet you there. In that meeting, there is LIFE as God intends for it to be.

Blessings on you,