I have been thinking a lot about mindset lately. There are several areas in my life where my mindset has changed, where the established opinions and thought patterns of my mind and heart have been altered. God has shown me so much about grace in the last few years, and as I have learned how to soak in His grace like a dry seed soaking up water so it can sprout, I have begun to feel the rootlets of grace growing in me. He is truly changing me from the inside out…sometimes I get stuck in an old pattern of thinking or behaving, but as I learn how to live a life of repentance and faith, I know that the Holy Spirit in me prompts me to honestly evaluate those things. I am far, far from perfect; I struggle in my mind so much with wrong ways of thinking. I thought, though, that I would take a little time and flesh out what God has been doing in me, specifically in how He has changed my thinking.
Gratitude. This one has been huge. It took being stripped bare of myself to uncover all the areas of rot and gangrene in my soul. It took being stripped of all our earthly security (namely, the Handy Man’s livelihood) in order for us to find that God is indeed enough, and to find that we can be thankful for all circumstances. I am learning how to appreciate simple things: my children going above or beyond to help me, working appliances, a quiet sunset, good sleep, simple times of fellowship and fun, relationships with loved ones, work well done. God has surprised us through other people with acts of incredible generosity and sacrifice. We have had to learn to swallow pride in accepting gifts from other people…and in it all, God has shown us that to be grateful is to open yourself and others to blessing. When I feel myself getting bitter or down, I remind myself of all the ways God has blessed us….I remind myself that even in the darkest struggle, God has been faithfully there, prodding us to believe His promises. I am, at the core, profoundly grateful for my savior, Jesus Christ, who redeemed me when I was not worth redeeming.
The next area is actually related to gratitude, but it is subtler. I have struggled for most of my life with the idea that I “deserved” things. It is entitlement. The most blatant, and yet blind to me, way was in how I lived a life of fruitless legalism, arrogantly assuming that because I was working for God, doing all the “right” things, He “owed” me. I would have told you that I knew I was saved by grace, but my functional savior was not Jesus, it was my efforts to live to a standard that only He could fulfill. It was exhausting! My children had to perfectly reflect my “righteousness”, and when they failed to do so, it not only destroyed me, but it harmed our relationship, for what child can live up to that kind of expectation? I wanted everyone to think I was perfect. But I wasn’t. I was barely functional. My home was disordered, my life was chaos, my soul was in hiding. I would rationalize my behavior. This attitude of entitlement emerged in the way I thought about food. I “deserved” the McDouble (Hey–their commercial says I deserve a break today!) or the chocolate bar. I “deserved” me time. I “deserved” to do what I wanted to do, and when I could not afford to do what I wanted to do, I became bitter. It was sick. As God showed me my entitlement mindset, I fought against it at first. Once I realized how deep that root went, and once I was utterly convinced that what I really deserved was death….oh how sweetly did the sacrifice of Jesus come to impact me! I had been a Christian for a long time, but for the first time, I really began to understand that Jesus was ENOUGH. It wasn’t Jesus plus my effort. It wasn’t Jesus plus my obedience. It wasn’t Jesus plus me in any way, shape or form. It was…and is…Jesus. He is enough. He lived a perfect life that I could never live, he died an obedient and agonizing death in my place. He has done all I will ever need to do to be accepted, and He did it for me, in my place, because I could not do it. I simply accept the gift. Ah, yes, back to gratitude.
The third area in which I have had to think about mindset has to do with purity. Having five daughters would give just about anyone cause to think about this subject; being a disciple of Christ means that this subject is important. Purity can mean many things. A young man who has asked to date one of our daughters, when asked what purity meant to him, gave an astounding answer in which he said, in part, that there is purity of mind, purity of spirit and purity of body. He is right, of course. Purity is so much more than just not having sex before marriage, but I have come to realize that we can emphasize that part of it so much that we neglect to talk about all the things that come before, about the mindset of purity.
I was a messed-up teenager, and I was not at all pure in my motives in my relationships or in my thoughts. Like so many young women, I gave away my body too freely in an attempt to feel loved, beautiful and deeply cherished. My relationships with people so often were based on what I could get from them: love, acceptance, loyalty, confirmation that I was okay, assurance that I fit in and that I was lovable. In other words, co-dependence. I knew that the way I had related to others was twisted…and of course, much later, Making Peace with Your Past and Wounded Heart cemented that understanding for me.
When I started having daughters, I determined that I was going to raise them in such a way that they would value purity. Of course, I really had no idea how to go about doing that. I think we probably over-emphasized the idea that they could not think about sex until they were married. Obviously, that does not always work. We have Dee, after all….and while we are joyously awaiting the birth of our granddaughter, there is also sorrow in knowing that she did not value her purity enough to wait. And we have other daughters who so value it that they are seen as an anomaly in this society. This is a good thing. Our society does not value the things God values. God tells us to be holy–set apart–as He is holy. But that does not mean it is always easy, for being different from the mainstream can be very difficult.
The Lord has given me much to contemplate as I think about purity. He has impressed on me that He is the author of purity. No matter what happened to me in the past (and let’s face it, sexual abuse has a way of making any child feel impure and dirty), my purity does not rest in me at all. No, it rests on the cleansing, PURIFYING blood of Jesus. I must be resting in Jesus alone…much as my understanding of salvation has been impacted by grace, so has my understanding of purity. But I must also choose to walk in the direction of purity. That is where the obedience comes in…not to make me pure, but to follow through on what has already been given to me, what has been declared about me by the Almighty God, by walking in it.
Purity of mind: What am I listening to on the radio? What am I watching on TV? I have several shows I like to watch…well, okay, not quite on TV since we gave up the dish, but I do follow them on the internet. I was deeply convicted when a show I really liked came on a channel my father-in-law has. He watched it one night and was shocked that I would watch such trash. I honestly had not thought about that part of the show–I was caught up in the story, the history, the expansive tale. But he saw right away the tawdry underside. We can grow callous to tawdriness. That is not a good thing.
Most importantly, am I spending time with the Lord in His Word? As our daughter’s suitor very accurately pointed out, no romantic relationship will work if our relationship with God does not come first. I would add that no relationships can really work to the benefit of me or the other person if we are neglecting our individual relationship with God. Does God come first? If I wish to walk the path of purity, am I allowing His Word to renew my mind?
Purity of Spirit: Am I listening to the Holy Spirit? Do I feel righteous conviction over my sins? Do I repent and turn away from them? Am I honest about my true desires? Am I asking God to search my heart as King David did–and am I willing to hear when He has something to say?
Purity of Body: Not legalism, but am I doing what is good and healthy for my body? God’s Word says in 1 Corinthians 10:17, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man, but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able, but will with the temptation, also make a way to escape, that you be able to bear it. ” Temptations WILL come. Sexual temptations for those who are not married may be especially difficult. Are we walking in such a way as to avoid these situations, or are we stirring up passions we cannot legitimately fulfill? Food: am I eating to fuel my body, or has food become a substitute savior or comforter for me? Rest: am I getting enough of it to replenish my body, or am I spending too much time resting and not enough time working? Purity of Body encompasses so much!
As God has changed and challenged my mindsets, He has changed and grown me. Sometimes that growth has been painful. Often it has been painful. Sometimes He has called me to experience pain and sorrow, in order for me to let those things go. Always he demands my holiness, and always that demand is met in Jesus alone. I am thankful that He is teaching me what to value, how to grieve, how to love, how to live. He is renewing my mind, and that is a process that will not be finished until I am with Him face to face. Pruning must be done regularly in order to benefit the bush. If I want to be fruitful, then I must allow God to prune my mindsets. It is not always easy, but it is always worth it.