Mental image

I saw a pin for the nth time and took a moment to think about it (but not enough time to save it). “What messes up our lives the most is our image of how we think it ought to be” or close to that. So I asked myself what I thought my life ought to be like. Husband, kids, steady income, happy … Not longing for what I don’t have … Stupid, never thinking outside the box… Crap. My “dream life” is ridiculously boring.

No wonder I’m so often down in the dumps. I want something retarded. My mental image is some 50’s magazine family that never explores or wonders or challenges boundaries. The image God’s been trying to write on my heart is wonder and excitement and peace and adventure with the right mate and friends. Not the caricature of the American dream.  

Where did I get this idea? Many places, I’m sure. I grew up American, with parents only one or two generations down from emmigrants who craved that dream. Men and women who worked their whole lives to build skills and business and futures. I did not grow up with risk-takers, dreamers, or starry-eyed idealists. Everything I knew was “God helps those who help themselves.”

But that’s not how God operates, actually. In fact, my reading of the Bible reveals not only that this popular saying isn’t in it, but that such an attitude is very dangerous to have, spiritually speaking. How arrogant is it to say to the One who made everything, “Don’t worry; I got this”?

“Just You sit back, God. I can handle this.” And then cancer.

“I’m not going to ask you to do something for me that I can do for myself, God.” Tsunami.

“Hang tight, God, and let me take care of this.” Market crash.

“I’ve got it under control.” Depression.

We can barely control our own thoughts; what makes us think that we can control things outside of ourselves? We get so focused on the externals that we forget that “the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”  If your heart is full of self-reliance, then your actions reflect that. It’s said that beliefs don’t make you a good person, but that behavior does. I say that behavior stemming from the wrong motivation is no different than pure evil.

Why do I make this bold claim? How many times did Jesus chastise the religious elite for their attitudes? For their hearts? He compared them to pretty tombs, painted and landscaped and full of death. Jesus went further to say that on the day of final judgement, He will turn a lot of people away, all of whom did amazing, good deeds, because He didn’t know them. That is the key.

God makes it clear that having your “shit” in order isn’t sufficient. You must know Him. Just like the disciples, you have to spend time with Him. A lot of time. Day in, day out. Do life together. Go for coffee, do homework together, talk, text, share funny pins, watch movies together. Listen. Read what He considered worth writing down. And do the things He said to do, not because it makes you a superior person, but because you care that much about Him.

After all, He cared enough about you to die in your place. And then He came back from the dead, better than ever, to be your best friend.

When your attitude is right, when your motivation to work hard and make something of yourself stems from an understanding of just how much you are loved and what your intrinsic value is, that’s when your efforts mean something. That’s when you have eternal impact. That is when you can look yourself in the mirror without reservation and see no shadows.

I’m going to rewrite my dream, my mental image of how my life ought to be. God made me, made me specifically, on purpose, and for a reason. I’m going to pursue His dream for my life because I believe that’s the only dream that will make me happy.


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