What Do You Want Your Inner World To Look Like?

The world inside our minds can be a fascinating place. For some of us, it’s even more “real” than the outer world. Introverts in particular approach the world from the perspective that reality is what we bring to it from within. However, every type has an introverted and an extroverted side. Extroverts have an inner life, just like Introverts have an extroverted persona they use in the outer world. We all prefer one or the other as our starting point for conceptualizing reality, but every human being has an “inner world” of some kind.

Susan Storm’s post “The Secret World of Every Introverted Myers-Briggs® Personality Type” is what prompted today’s post. It got me thinking about how the worlds inside our own heads work, especially in connection with the Joyce Myers’ book Battlefield of the Mind that I’ve been reading. How much control do we have over the types of thoughts that we think? To what extent is our inner world shaped consciously? And if we don’t like something about the way our inner world or “thought life” is now, can we change it?

Our Minds Shape Us

The question of what our inner world looks like is probably most interesting to introverts, but I think it’s one that extroverts benefit from considering as well. None of us walk around all day with our minds a blank slate waiting for something outside us to fill out thoughts. We’re all using our inner thought life for something, even if it seems to just be running on automatic.

The Book of Proverbs tells us that as a man “thinks within himself, so is he” (Prov. 23:7, TLV). Even if you’re not a Bible-reader, it’s still a principle that we can apply. The things that we think about on the inside shape who we are and who we’re becoming on the outside. It’s impossible to separate what our inner world looks like from the reality of who we are as a whole person. Read more

Advertisements

Your Memory Doesn’t Work The Way You Think It Does

We tend to think of our memories as pretty reliable things. We might joke about how forgetful we are, but when we do remember something we assume that it’s accurate.

I was 12 years old on September 11, 2001 and I vividly remember hearing about the terrorist attack. I was in our family minivan with my mother, sister, and little brother when the news came over the radio. I wasn’t quite sure what had happened, and was more worried that my mother was going to drive into another car on the crowded in-town roads because she was so upset. We continued on to the roller skating rink where we’d been heading, skated for a while, and then stopped when the announcement went out over the loudspeaker. Several people gathered together to pray, but we stayed off to one side praying just as a family. I felt scared, confused, and very alone.

That’s probably not what actually happened, though. Another thing I remember is starting a diary because I was sure that this was such a pivotal turning point in our nation’s history that decades from now some historian would care about what I wrote. I can’t find that diary anywhere, so I have no way to compare my memories now against what I recorded back then. But if I’m anything like other people, then only a little over 50% of these details I remember are accurate. Read more

Turning Offense Into Something Useful

It seems like everyone is offended about something today. Wherever someone voices a decided opinion, there’s someone else reacting to it defensively. In an effort not to offend anyone, we’re turning into a society where we talk around issues rather than addressing them directly. We couch our opinions in careful language like, “From my own personal view …” and “I don’t want to force an opinion on you, it’s just my thoughts that …”.

Why are we so quick to see offense as a bad thing in today’s culture? If it’s just because we don’t like to be made uncomfortable, then we’re missing valuable opportunities for personal growth. Being offended offers a challenge to how we think. For people who are open to questioning, growth, and refinement, being challenged is a good thing. For people who just want to float through life without wondering “why?”, offense is scary.

Turning Offense Into Something Useful | marissabaker.wordpress.com
photo credit for portrait: “Angy Face” by Ryan Hyde, CC BY-SA

The next time you feel offended, don’t look at it as a bad thing. See it as an opportunity for self-examination. It’s a chance to look inside yourself and find out why you’re having such a strong, defensive emotional reaction to what you just saw or heard. Ask yourself things like,

  • Is this important enough to be offended about?
    • If no, why am I so defensive?
    • If yes, how do I turn my offense into something more productive?
  • Am I offended by this because it makes me feel guilty about something I’m doing wrong? (plank in your own eye, speck in your brother’s …)
  • Does anyone else care that I care about this?
  • Would sharing my thoughts on this just stir up unproductive strife? (If yes, don’t do it!)
  • Is the thing I feel offended about something that’s hurting other people?
    • If yes, what can I do to stop it? (For example, being offended that human trafficking exists doesn’t help; you’d need to fight against it or support those who do.)
  • Is the idea/statement that offends me actually true, regardless of how I feel?

Offense is unproductive by itself, but when we feel offended we have a chance to transcend knee-jerk reactions and use it as a tool for self-examination, growth and motivation. We can look inside ourselves and see if our offended reaction points to something we need to change, and we can look outside ourselves for opportunities to actively make the world a better place.

God’s Thoughts

Doing a study on how God thinks might in some ways seem futile, since Romans 11:33-34 says His ways are past finding out” and implies that no human has or can know “the mind of the Lord.” But another verse that borrows this thought from Isaiah 40:13 and Jeremiah 23:18 gives a bit more hope for today’s topic.

For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Cor. 2:16)

The context of this verse is explaining how God, through His Holy Spirit, gives us access to His thoughts. Because we have been called and given His Spirit, “we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God” (1 Cor. 1:12). That doesn’t mean we know, or can know, everything, but it does mean we can begin to understand the mind of God and have Christ’s mind formed in us (Phil. 2:5).

God’s Thoughts Are…

Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Is. 55:6-9)

Before these verses tell us how much higher God’s thoughts are than ours, it instructs us to change the patterns of our own thinking. Our thoughts must be in the right place before we can begin to understand how God thinks. In order to “return to the Lord,” we have to forsake unrighteous thoughts and wicked ways.

casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, (2 Cor. 10:5)

Though we are created in God’s image, we can’t assume that means His thoughts are similar to ours. They are far higher, and to have a relationship with Him we need to recognize that our pattern of thinking needs to change — to become more like the One we were originally patterned after.

He Knows Our Thoughts

In sci-fi, we describe the ability to read someone else’s thoughts as telepathy. We could say God has this superpower, which is an idea I find both awe-inspiring and a bit scary. He can understand us from the perspective of sensing our innermost thoughts and driving motivations. If we feel lonely or misunderstood, this is a comfort. But when we’ve done something wrong it is impossible to hide from Him.

O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, You know it altogether. …

Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me. (Ps. 139:1-4, 7-10)

blog post "God's Thoughts" by marissabaker.wordpress.comThis is my favorite Psalm. I usually find the idea of being known so intimately by my Lord a huge comfort. Who else can literally know every aspect of who you are, understand you perfectly, and still love you?

How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; when I awake, I am still with You. …

Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Ps. 139:17-18, 23-24)

Once we ask God for this kind of relationship, though, it’s not all about being accepted just as we are. God loves us now, exactly as He finds us, but one aspect of this Love is that He will not allow us to remain imperfect versions of ourselves. He has to be working in us and with us to change us, to make us more like Him.

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.

Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb. 4:12-16)

His Thoughts Toward Us

Though He knows every one of our thoughts, and sees all our foibles and faults (even the ones we manage to keep hidden from other people), God’s own thoughts toward us are good things. Another scripture I take great comfort in is part of a letter Jeremiah the prophet wrote when the Jews were carried away captive as a result of their disobedience to God. Even in that context, God was still planning good things for them and thinking of them kindly.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive. (Jer. 29:11-14)

It’s interesting that here as well as in Isaiah 55:6 there is the idea of seeking the Lord. Both times when we’re talking about God’s thoughts in relation to us, we are instructed to seek Him because He wants to be found. He wants us to love Him, to try and understand Him, and to grow in His character — to learn to think the way He thinks.

Sherlock, Roses, and God

prink rose 'Bill Warner'
‘Bill Warner’

I was reading Sherlock Holmes “The Adventure of the Naval Treaty” the other day when I came across a quote about religion. I’ve read maybe a third of the Doyle’s Sherlock stories, but never thought of the character as religious before. In this story, Sherlock has just heard the particulars of a case and walks to the open window, where he plucks a rose.

“There is nothing in which deduction is so necessary as in religion,” said he, leaning with his back against the shutters. “It can be built up as an exact science by the reasoner. Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its colour are an embellishment of life, not a conditions of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers.”

yellow rose 'Aperitif'
‘Aperitif’

I’ve marveled at the roses growing in my garden as examples of God’s creative work, but not precisely in this light before. Sherlock’s belief that, “It is only goodness which gives extras” fits perfectly with this scripture:

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with Whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.(James 1:17)

How many “extras” has God put in your life? How many gifts has He given that are not necessary for your existence, but make life so much more enjoyable?

Aside from flowers, one of the first things I thought of was books. If all my 1,000+ books disappeared right now I would 1) have the most outrageous panic attack, but 2) life would go on in that I don’t need books to stay alive. Music, fluffy cats, chocolate covered almonds, and the computer I’m typing this with are all “extras.”

red rose 'Mr. Lincoln'
‘Mr. Lincoln’

Considering this, the only thing I can think of to say is:

Praise ye the LORD. O give thanks unto the LORD; for He is good: for His mercy endureth for ever. Who can utter the mighty acts of the LORD? who can shew forth all His praise? (Ps. 106:1-2)