Most people in Western society live their lives at a hectic pace, just trying to manage the “cobwebs” of life. They wrestle out of bed in the morning before getting enough sleep; or they are groggy from too much sleep; or they even suffer from too much “self-medication” such as alcohol, prescription drugs or other substances to numb the pain and escape the stress from the night before.
So many of us wander through the day just trying to put out fires--- living up to unmet expectations, jumping through other people’s hoops or reacting to situations, all because of faulty thinking, and internal pressure—pressure from self or pressure from others.
What would it be like to begin to cut away at the myriad of webs and break away into the freedom of being your true self? What would it be like to truly know the fullness of the love God has for you---without the pressure of performance? What would it be like to break away from past hurts, forgiving yourself and others—letting go of resentments once and for all? What would it be like to really and truly enjoy Life, People and God?
Managing the “cobwebs” of life is not really a once and for all event. This cobweb trimming, cleaning and managing is a process—a process that takes courage to trust that God has done the cleansing. Our part is to accept it and live it. The process of “taking every thought captive in obedience to Christ” can be elusive. Sometimes we don’t know what we are thinking or even feeling. But if we can slow down, pray, spend time with a trusted friend or mentor and begin to trace the situation backwards, identifying the feelings…then the thought and finally the belief that is driving the whole “cobweb making machine” then we have some victory.
I find that most relationship difficulties and inabilities to manage life come from patterns of negative thinking that result in poor relational patterns. For instance, before I knew how to “take every thought captive”, I lived in the jungle of emotions and fear. I would clamor for attention, trying to be the first one to speak—and even when I was trying NOT to be the first one to speak, I spoke up anyway. I did not know what I was thinking or believing. I just had an inner “push” to do this or that, to make chaos go away and to calm the feelings and fear inside by acting out and controlling everything.
As I have learned to pay attention to my thoughts, feelings and beliefs I am sure I am much more pleasant to live with and my inner heart is calmer and less fearful. I noticed last night while enjoying a meal with my husband I was not so anxious to make sure we were talking about something “important” or “interesting”. I am more present in listening to others, rather than trying to teach someone something or make a chaotic situation go away. I have trimmed my impossible and extravagant list of “to dos” down to a manageable few. I am better at figuring out what really needs to be done by me and what I can leave to others.
A Real Life Example
On a recent winter get-away we went for a boat ride in Costa Rica to see wildlife and the mangrove forest during the high tide. There was a family with two small children on the boat; no life jackets were required. At first my stomach was tense, and my teeth were clinched. I was afraid that the little ones would tip over the side and fall in the water—not such a great option even if they do swim as crocodiles roam these waters!
As I remembered my process to think about my thinking, I discovered that I was thinking that it was “my responsibility to keep these little ones safe” and the picture in my mind was vigilant in playing the scene—the worst-case scene –over and over in my brain. After taking a breath and looking off into the trees, I focused on identifying the thought…I traced the thought back to what I would need to believe if these thoughts would keep me wrapped up in my fear. The belief: God is not present, and these parents don’t care about their kids. Well, after some moments of silent prayer while the boat meandered through the mangrove forest and asking the lord to quiet my mind and heart, I believe He spoke to me reminding me that He was near and that this was the responsibility of their parents. My mind quieted down…the cobwebs cleared. I was able to enjoy the laughter of the little ones as they engaged with the birds and monkeys. And, I was able to let the anxiousness roll off even when they were distraught or restless. “Not my circus, not my monkeys” as a good friend of mine says often. I need to remember that have enough in managing my own cobwebs.
What “Cobwebs” are you living in?
What Self-protective patterns do you replay that get in the way of loving and satisfying relationships?
What expectations of others do you get trapped in?
What Deceptions are you believing that you think God expects of you?
Next time you find yourself in a situation that has you “living in the cobwebs”, what can you do to begin to trust God to clear them away, ground you in what is really true, and help you live with more freedom?
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2