>The first stage of any spiritual exercise is to spend time looking for any traces of Christ inside. Being generous with myself as I can be with others I will be able to find quite a few. I am generous, loyal, encouraging. Of course, my mind always add a “but” – as in, generous yes, but how about that time when I wasn’t? How about loyal? Sure, loyal when it suits you….and so on.
“As he thinketh in his heart, so is he.” (Prov 23:7) Why is that? The version in the NIV reads: “For he is the kind of person who is always thinking about the cost.”
In 1902 James Allen published an influential essay called “As a Man Thinketh”:
Mind is the Master power that moulds and makes,
And Man is Mind, and evermore he takes
The tool of Thought, and, shaping what he wills,
Brings forth a thousand joys, a thousand ills: —
He thinks in secret, and it comes to pass:
Environment is but his looking-glass.
In 2006 the best-selling self-help book The Secret written by Rhonda Byrne states:
Whatever is going on in your mind is what you are attracting. We are like magnets – like attract like. You become and attract what you think.
My grandfather always used to say that the world was a mirror, reflecting back to me who I really was. I have no proof, but I do not doubt that my grandfather, a voracious reader of obscure writings, probably read Allen.
But, there is something that has always bothered me, there is something dangerous about this way of thinking. The focus is how I think, how I feel, how I, how I…it is all about me! So there is a quality of thinking which is not always good. If I spend all my time staring at the mirror I might just forget to look beyond it, at my neighbor.
Everyone knows the myth of Narcissus: Narcissus was a hunter from who was renowned for his beauty. He was exceptionally proud of his own beauty to the point that he disdained those who loved him. The goddess Nemesis (who was the spirit of divine retribution against those who succumb to hubris and arrogance before the gods) saw his arrogance and attracted Narcissus to a pool where he saw his own reflection in the waters and fell in love with it, not realizing it was merely an image. Unable to leave the beauty of his reflection, Narcissus died slowly, without ever being able to look away.
At this point I think of one of my favorite passages from Paul: Philippians 4:1-9. Without a doubt if Narcissus had read Paul he would have avoided a slow, debilitating death entranced by his own beauty…There are other small “exercises” which can be done on a daily basis, on an hourly basis, anywhere, anytime, simple exercises to orient my thinking to God and God’s will:
* I will focus my thinking upon heavenly, not earthly, things (Col.3:2; Phil.3:19-20; 4:8).
* I will think humble thoughts, not proud ones (Rm.12:2-3).
* I will set my thoughts upon things that unite me with my fellow believers, rather than separating me from them (Rom.12:16; 15:5; 2Cor.13:11; 1Pet.3:8).
* I will think like the Son, and not like the self-interested (Phil.2:2-4).
* I will think like the Spirit, not like the flesh (Rm.8:6).
* I will think maturely not childishly (1Cor.13:11; Phil.3:15).