I was repeatedly encountering reminders to "renew my mind". (Rom. 12:2) A variety of situations continued to be brought to my attention reminding that I was to be "taking all of my thoughts captive". (II Cor. 10:5)
About that same time I was also reading "The Practice of the Presence of God" By Brother Lawrence.
I began to pray and ask God to show me how to renew my mind, take my thoughts captive, and practice His presence in the every day of my every day's.
"Your mind is the battleground. The front line is always the mind. Never forget that principle, for understanding it is the key to winning the war." ~~ Kay Arthur
I presented myself with a challenge. One that I thought would be easier to implement than it turned out to be.
I almost always had music playing, especially when I was in the car. It seemed easy to keep my focus on the things of God when praise and worship was always present in the form of music. But what if that was turned off? What if there was nothing.
Nothing... but silence.
Where would my mind, my thoughts go? Could I keep them focused and God centered even in silence?
It seemed to me that if I could train my thoughts in silence, then when the "battle" ensued it would be an established practice of negotiating and keeping them in check.
Can I tell you the beginnings of this practice was so very difficult? I struggled. My mind wanted to race to the plans for the day. The conversations had with friends or family the night before. The things I was behind in. The driver in front of me.
"Either you must learn to take your thoughts captive - or the deceiver will take you captive with your thoughts!" ~~ Kay Arthur
I was shocked to discover that my thoughts did not naturally drift toward the things of God. It took work. It required focus. It demanded concentrated effort.
But I was determined to learn how to take control. And so I persisted. And I still persist.
Not that I have arrived. But encouragingly I find myself choosing more and more to have the music off in others parts of my day. And I notice the intentional focused effort is not near what it used to be.
In fact, there are even times now I catch myself thinking on things of God without having consciously chosen to do so, only to stop and recognize that is where my mind has drifted.
It's in those moments that my heart is greatly encouraged. This renewing of the mind, this taking thoughts captive, this practicing God's presence... worth every discouraging realization of where my natural inclination is and the effort to get it where I want it to be.
What about you? Have you ever been in silence for any length of time? Have you consciously observed where your thoughts go in those moments? Have you purposely tried to control them to go in the direction you want?
What does renewing your mind, taking your thoughts captive, and living in the presence of God mean and look like to you?