“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
II Corinthians 10:5
Now THERE is a difficult concept.
Taking captive every thought? How do you capture a thought? It’s there one minute, ingrained the next.
I don’t know about you, but my thoughts often run rampant through my mind. Corralling a single one is nearly an impossible task, let alone directing each one’s obedience to Christ. I mean, let’s face it, thoughts are strong. Especially negative thoughts.
There are a select few of you who are aware of this already. But for those who don’t know me well, I’m going to make a blunt confession.
I hate myself.
That’s a strong, negative thought. It’s not something I’m proud of. But it’s there all the same. For as long as I can remember, I’ve staggered under the burden of that thought. It prevails over my perspective. Every criticism I receive, every contradiction to my words, every imperfection I see – be it physical or internal, each one feeds that singular thought. Each one gives that thought strength.
Recently, I listened to a woman speak of how, scientifically, thoughts are like a groove. The consistent ones impress upon your brain until they change the way you think. That in essence, they create a rut that your brain constantly goes too, like the tire tracks left in a road.
The groove creates the trap.
It reminded me of my recent visit with my great aunt, Annie. This year she turned one hundred years old. She has always been an inspiration to me. For as long as I’ve known her, she epitomized my vision of a renaissance woman. There wasn’t a thing she wasn’t willing to try. From my view, she could do it all: Art, crafts, writing, research, teaching, ministry, outreach, public service…the sky seemed the limit.
She told of how in her Sunday school class, the kids would complain because she’d make them recite a verse over and over. They questioned her, “Why do we have to keep memorizing this stuff.”
Do you know what she told them?
“Because I want it to be like a groove in your brain.”
She went on to explain how the repetition made it like a pencil groove on a piece of paper. If you take the pencil and repeatedly mark over the same spot, you not only get this huge, dark, black line, but…you find that the pressure actually forms a groove in the spot where you marked the paper over and over.
Do you want to know something sad?
Annie lived out that beautiful life lesson in a negative way that still confines her now. She trapped a singular thought that she can’t shake because she kept telling it to herself over and over again.
“I’m so stupid.”
Annie never graduated high school. She had to abandon her education to help her family during a difficult time in their lives. You see, Annie grew up during the Great Depression. She blossomed into womanhood while her family struggled to make ends meet in the transition between the Depression and World War II.
All through that time, and throughout her life afterward, Annie thought herself stupid. She told me that she did all the things she did because she was “just too stupid to know any better.”
If you knew Annie, as I and my family know Annie, then you’d realize that nothing could be further from the truth. The woman is one hundred years old and can still quote Longfellow to you. She is anything but stupid. Yet she believes it to be true…
Because she captured a thought
So perhaps now, you’ve come to the same realization I have. How do you capture a thought? Through vain repetition. At least, vain in the example of the negative ones.
But I believe there’s a repetition that’s not in vain. There’s a way to form a groove to capture thoughts in the right way.
To capture thoughts for Christ
You see, Christ Himself is the answer. His love, which covers a multitude of sins, is the groove in which our thoughts need to be placed. When thoughts like: “I hate myself” or “I’m so stupid” are set in the groove of Christ’s love, their flaws become evident. His perfect love reveals them like light shed over a darkened room.
If we repeatedly shove the thoughts into the groove of Christ’s love, then pretty soon, like water over ruts in a road, those thoughts are washed over. They become absorbed in the rut. Pretty soon, you find they’re transformed into the rut of Christ.
They’re no longer distinguishable from the groove.
This year, family and friends set out to show Annie that her thoughts were wrong. She was given an honorary high school diploma. Everyone gathered to pay tribute to the life she led and the accomplishments she made. Annie didn’t feel deserving. She wept and couldn’t believe the experience. Yet she heard words of affirmation in rebuttal to the years of lies. I pray it helped change her perspective.
So what about us?
I confess, I still struggle not to believe in my heavy thoughts. Daily I’m bombarded with them, and daily I strive to see them in the light of God’s knowledge and love. Though a positive groove hasn’t replaced the negative one yet, God keeps giving me the strength to snag that sucker and stick it back into the groove of His love.
I anticipate the day when it’s washed over – no longer distinguishable from Him.
He’ll do the same for you, if you let Him.