Grade 2 was a tough year. I was a new kid at school, you know the drill, no friends, trying to fit in. It struck me that sitting up front and trying to answer the teacher’s questions was not the way to win acceptance. It seemed better to hold back. Maybe then I would be liked. That childish and faulty expression of humility became a regular behavioural pattern. Not one that I really thought much about, it just became my default: sit back and hold back until it’s safer to share.
Throughout our life, particularly in our formative years, we adopt strategies and structures upon which we build our identities. These might be fashioned in response to wounds, hardship, challenges, cultural influences and family norms. They enable us to cope, even to excel in some way, but at their root, they represent patterns of thinking that do not line up with God’s view of us or the world. They are faulty, false and some are downright lies. That is why part of God’s necessary restorative work (making-us-holy work) is to renew our minds. God by his Spirit enables us to see the false patterns of the world and to reframe our identities and worldview based on his truth in Christ (Rom 12:1-2).
Identifying Faulty Foundations
A good place to start is to ask God to make clear to you the faulty and false foundations upon which you are standing. Listening prayer, journaling and solitude are helpful in this. Prayerfully reflect over situations in which you feel defensive, irritated or driven.
The work of the Spirit is not to shame us but to show us a particular mindset that is not true. God’s grace and guidance will accompany this insight.
Reframe Faulty Foundations
In coping with life we may have developed a false internal script. The track I would play is: “Hold back and don’t open up, then they will accept you.”
The truth is that God loves me and affirms me unconditionally. He is the ultimate source of my value and confidence. I need to replace that faulty script with one based on God’s truth: “Lean in and open up, God loves you even if they decide not to.” This is the truth I need to accept and live out.
Engage in Real-time Renewal
The best time to invite God to renew your mind is in the moment. As soon as you become aware that you are acting on a false script, that is the time to reject it. Often there is a distinctive emotional marker that will indicate a worldly pattern. It could be anxiety, frustration, or fear. That is when you want to rehearse the script that expresses God’s truth about you and the situation.
Seek God’s Empowerment
Renewing our minds in real-time is the work of God by his Holy Spirit. This is not a DIY spiritual project. The situation may allow you to take a timeout with God, it might not. Either way, incline your hearts toward God and ask audibly or silently that he would grant you the courage and strength to live out his truth in the now.
Act Out the Truth
Don’t wait until you feel better or stronger or wiser or bolder. Work out your salvation with ‘fear and trembling’ (Phil 2:13) trusting that God will do his part in granting you what you need to live true to his will. This likely is not a one-time fix. You will discover again that you are defaulting toward this false script, but as God renews your mind this worldly pattern (this rut) gets filled in with his truth about you.
As I reflected on faulty foundations I realized the voices in my head are sometimes not so much self- denegrating, but rather telling me “I can/should do it on my own”; I don’t/shouldn’t need anyone’s help”. The musings and curse of the Tyoe A personality. A way to reframe, for me, is to acknowledge my weakness(es) and dependence on Him.
Thanks for this, Dave. In II Corinthians 10:4-5 Paul writes that the weapons of our warfare are divinely powerful for “tearing down strongholds and taking every thought captive to obedience to Christ”. We can think of strongholds as being systems of thought like gnosticism in Paul’s day or atheism in our day, but it can also mean the individual thoughts that we repeat to ourselves, the “false script” you’re talking about.
The Puritans talked about the “sin behind the sin” which is fuelled by the false script. If I struggle with being honest, it may be because my false script is making me inordinately concerned with what others think of me. When I follow the steps you outline and counter this with the truth that through Christ I am already accepted by God, I can relax about acceptance by others and not feel the need to bend the truth to build me up.
David starts Psalm 139 by saying “You have searched me and You know me” and then in v.23 he prays, “Search me and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts…and lead me in the way everlasting” He’s praying a prayer of actively cooperating with God in this process.
A very thought provoking subject. I appreciated the challenge of deeper thinking and self reflection. Thanks