Renew Your Mind–2 of 4
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world
PATTERN OF THE WORLD
John French gives us a definition of the world pattern:
“…a floating mass of thoughts, opinions, maxims, speculations, hopes, impulses, aims, aspirations…which constitute a most real and effective power, being the moral or immoral atmosphere which at every moment of our lives we inhale.”
Pastor Greg Boyd and Psychologist, Al Larson put it more concisely:
“The world is a structure of presuppositions and values that work at cross-purposes with the plans and values of the all-good Creator” as defined in John 10:10.”
In research for my book about worldviews, Mining Reality and Truth, I found Boyd and Larson’s book Escaping the Matrix (Baker Books, 2005) very helpful in defining world patterns.
“The total packages of lies (and deceptions) that infiltrate our brains is ‘the pattern of this world—what we are calling The Matrix.” (Boyd & Larson, page 31)
“Christians sometimes think the pattern of the world is just about morally significant things—our problems with lust, greed, and the like. But the Matrix is about anything and everything that to any degree keeps the quality of our lives beneath the abundant life God created us to have and Jesus died for us to have.” (Boyd & Larson, page 39).
I was traveling and ministering alone on a Sunday morning in western Iowa. As I unloaded sound equipment my heart started pounding. It felt like my head was filling up with out-of-control thoughts, feelings, and foreign substance. My mind began to explain to me what was happening, but it was lying to me. Months of stress caught up with me. I was scheduled for a Sunday school seminar. I explained to the packed room full of people what was happening to me. I was attempting to protect myself from embarrassment and to put the folks at ease. A lady said, “I have anxiety and panic attacks, also. What is your usual reaction?” Wanting to get the class to laugh and put myself at ease I said, “I begin to take my clothes off.” No one laughed!
Someone in the room finally said, “Please don’t do that!” (Then! Laughter.)
While a person is in a panic attack or anxiety overload is not the time to attempt to teach them new patterns of thinking! All that person wants is relief or reassurance that they are not dying or about to totally lose control of bodily functions. The best thing for that person is to take control of their breathing and physical movement which will dispel adrenalin and the effects of cortisol. Breathing deeply will send messages to the brain—“Stand down. Calm is returning. Cancel firetrucks and ambulances.” The feeling of unreality will dissipate and connection to reality and truth will slowly be reestablished.
Lying down to breathe deeply is not an option in front of a class. The people will freak out! They will call for EMT help. That is exactly what I feared would happen and my mind developed and expanded that story going on in my head. I feared I would not be able to continue or would do something crazy and other possibilities my mind was lying to me about—in detail. So, I just kept talking and switched seminar topics to “Attacking Anxiety.”
“Anything and everything that to any degree keeps the quality of our lives beneath the abundant life…,” certainly describes what was happening and what I was thinking and feeling. The disturbing element is to realize that life can be hijacked by our patterns of avoidance and preoccupation, so we never have to feel that again. Fear of a specific fear will seek to control every piece of life. The ability to fight back or use spiritual armor must be learned prior to the crisis.
PATTERNS OF YOUR MIND
Do you recognize thinking patterns signaling that depression or anxiety is about to consume you like a wildfire? There is a gap between stimuli and reaction that may be small but is large enough for you to intercept the pattern. It is a learned skill.
I was able to tell that seminar group that I was having an anxiety issue because I examined my usual thinking and what my life had been for several months. I was traveling alone which usually makes me vulnerable to aggressive toxic emotions. No one is close to ask me questions. The day before, my granddaughter and daughter-in-law were in a car accident that did not look to them like an accident. No one was hurt, but I ruminated on the event and possibilities.
Where does your mind automatically go? Death? Illness? Failure? Incompetence? Guilt? Shame? Freaking out while shopping? Losing your self during a public appearance? When satan or demons come after you, what is their usual tactic? Is it fear, accusation, patterns of failure? Reminders of erroneous thinking? What did I miss?
Renewing your mind includes reframing the familiar patterns during your prayer and training sessions. Some of us have strong automatic negative thoughts and need meds to help break that automatic response until positive automatic reaction and thought patterns are practiced into habits. Two golden habits: Self-awareness and Self-care.
PATTERNS FOR MIND RENEWAL
Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but let God re-mold your minds from within, (Romans 12:2 J. B. Phillips).
“Embrace, don’t avoid anxiety.”
If we are not to allow the world to “squeeze us into its mold,” what “mold” are we to allow to shape us? Whatever pattern we embrace will become our automatic reaction and response. I will include St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Examen here as an example how we can renew our minds.
The Examen: A Daily Prayer
(From Google:) St. Ignatius Loyola’s Examen is an opportunity for peaceful daily reflective prayer. It invites us to find the movement of God in all the people and events of our day. The Examen is simply a set of introspective prompts for you to follow or adapt to your own character and spirit.
(You will want to use a journal or notebook to write your responses to these prompts to track your plans and monitor your progress.)
Begin with a pause and a slow, deep breath or two; become aware that you are in the presence of the Holy.
What am I especially grateful for in the past day . . .
The gift of another day…
The love and support I have received…
The courage I have mustered…
An event that took place today…
I am about to review my day; I ask for the light to know God and to know myself as God sees me.
You may want to pray “consolation” and “desolation” here.
Where have I felt true joy today?
Did I Laugh today?
What has troubled me today?
What has challenged me today?
Where and when did I pause today?
Have I noticed God’s presence in any of this?
In light of my review, what is my response to the God of my life?
A Look Ahead
As I look ahead, what comes to mind?
With what spirit (attitude) do I want to enter tomorrow?
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The Examen adapted by Baylor University
Traditionally, there are five movements or steps in the Examen. The following steps outlined below are adapted from the technique outlined in the Spiritual Exercises developed by Ignatius Loyola in the 16th century. St. Ignatius required his companions, the Jesuits, to practice the Examen daily at noon and before turning in for sleep.
- Acknowledge an awareness of God’s Presence.
- Review the day in a posture of gratitude.
- Recognize a “Consolation” and a “Desolation” from the day.
- Choose a “Desolation” to pray into.
- Look with hope for new tomorrow.
A consolation is an experience that causes you to feel fully alive, at peace, joyful, happy, comforted, whole, connected, your best self, etc. and could be understood as an experience in which you feel close God.
A desolation is an experience that causes you to feel drained of energy, frustrated, irritated, angry, sad, sorrowful, alone, isolated, unaccepted, fragmented, less than your best self, etc. and could be understood as an experience in which you feel far away from God
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“I have come to see that the normal Christian life means miracles, spiritual intervention, and revelation. It means peace, joy, love, a sense of well-being and purpose…”
Bill Johnson, The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind,” (Destiny Image, 2014).
©2022 D. Dean Benton