Monday, July 7, 2008

Lord, Put a Leash on My Wandering Mind

What metaphor would you use to describe your brain? Mine would probably be the Internet: crammed full of all manner of information and stories--and linking to a new page every few paragraphs. Keeping my mind on one thing for five minutes is a major achievement; hearing that some people pray for thirty minutes each morning invites a wail of despair.

Perhaps the "multiple-track mind" is a common affliction in this multimedia-dependent, information-saturated age. But long before computers or television, God warned the followers of Moses about being distracted by worldly things and forgetting to make time for prayer and thanksgiving (see Dt. 8). Far more people slide into practical atheism through abundance than through poverty. (And we wonder why God doesn't take away all our problems?)

Like Martha in Luke 10:38-42, most of us go about distracted, worried, and upset because of what seems like an endless pile of things that have to be done, feeling we can't "waste time" by stopping to listen to God. Quite possibly the real reason is that we're secretly afraid--I know I often am--that if we ever really listen, He'll tell us to forget about some of those things altogether. Painful as our self-imposed burdens are to carry, our pride and self-indulgence have invited them to extend their roots so deeply into our hearts that the idea of pulling them out seems far more painful. Like a tooth extraction or limb amputation that forever strips away a piece of ourselves, and without even the benefit of anesthetic.

Sometimes it is necessary to sacrifice part of the body to save the whole from infection and death (cf. Mt. 18:8-9). But it is far better to avoid the infection in the first place by taking good care of our health and safety. And the only way to ensure that is to check in with our Doctor regularly. Jesus said, "Apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5, NIV, emphasis added).

Nothing--including giving Him our full attention. So, as we often do in corporate worship, let us begin private worship by asking Him to help us put aside all distracting thoughts and love Him with all our minds.

The Scriptures call us to constant prayer,
And to think on the pure and good;
But my thoughts chase many an idle dream,
And I fail to do as I should.
Yet I of myself have no will or strength
To exhort my thoughts toward the true:
Lord, put a leash on my wandering mind,
And lead my thoughts toward You.

The lure of fear is a mighty one,
As are anger, unease, and greed--
But a subtler trap is the leisure which,
Though not evil, ignores true need.
Like one who each night sits to watch TV,
My brain wastes much good it could do:
Lord, put a leash on my wandering mind,
And guide my heart toward You.

My one desire should be life with Christ,
And each thought I should think for Him,
For the Lord alone brings true peace of mind
And fills up life's cup to the brim.
But trapping each thought to make them His slaves
Is a work I soon tire to do:
Lord, forge a chain made of Love for my thoughts,
And pull me close to You.

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