“Jesus Christ is able to untangle all the snarls in my soul, to banish all my complexes, and to transform even my fixed habit patterns, no matter how deeply they are etched in my subconscious.” — Corrie ten Boom
One day last week, I was running late for my bus; and I still needed to grab a necklace to wear. Reaching for the one I wanted out of my jewelry box, you can imagine my dismay when I saw it was completely tangled up with another one… too tangled for me to get undone and still make it to my bus. I rarely have the patience to untangle a mess like that, and I really didn’t have any that particular morning. Usually, I will enlist the help of my eldest daughter, who was blessed with far more patience than I will ever have. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time that morning.
I’ve been thinking about how life can get that way… tangled. We become so tangled up in poor choices we’ve made or events that have happened to us, that it becomes close to impossible to get ourselves undone. Sometimes the more we try, the tighter the tangles become. What if the secret is to let go? To stop trying so hard…
I am blessed to have an employer who provides membership to a healthy living center for a considerably reduced fee. I recently joined and am taking two classes there that have to do with stress reduction. One of them is Resilience Training (based on the work of Dr. Amit Sood, who actually leads a few of the classes), and the other one is Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). Although both classes deal with mindfulness and gratitude among other things, it is interesting to see how the focus is different. In resilience training, we are taught to focus our attention on what is immediately in our present reality… not to get lost in the attention black holes of our past or be looking too far ahead into our future. Dr. Sood uses the analogy of driving a car. We don’t (or at least shouldn’t if we’re smart) spend too much time looking in our rearview mirror as we’re driving along in our car. Nor should we spend too much time looking ahead beyond the area where our headlights reach when we’re driving at night. We are wise to focus just on that bit of territory directly within the reach of our headlights. In the MBSR class, on the other hand, we are taught to let thoughts go. We acknowledge them as they pop into our heads, but we don’t dwell on them. For example, we are required to do a 27-minute body scan each evening whereby we listen to a CD with the instructor leading us through various parts of our body… focusing on them, the feelings associated with those areas, any pain we might be feeling, pleasant feelings, etc. Due to the nature of the mind, it is easy to get sidetracked. Our minds tend to wander. We are taught, however, to gently bring them back to the area we are focusing on. We don’t deny the thoughts we have, nor do we dwell on them; we simply acknowledge them and move on. “Hmmm… I’m feeling angry. I wonder what brought that on? Interesting” (and then let it go).
I have spent the past 20 years of my life dwelling on the same problem over and over. The problem hasn’t changed, but the way I am beginning to think about it has. I’m not a slow learner. I just get stuck in wanting to do the right thing. Sometimes doing the right thing is to let go. I am learning that sometimes by letting go, the answer we have been so desperately searching for (and which has been there all along) is now able to make its way to the surface where it can be heard. I am learning that the answer lies within our heart, and sometimes we tend to analyze with our minds to such an extent that we kill the instinct of our hearts. When we kill the instinct of our hearts, we are in essence stilling the voice of the Holy Spirit within us. If we don’t listen to the Holy Spirit within, we are failing to be obedient to the call of God in our lives. That’s when things become so tangled.
I am learning, through these classes, to become reacquainted with the Lori Lynn I was a long time ago… a Lori Lynn I really liked. I am learning that I have spent the majority of my adult years buried in busy-ness… steeped in worry and frustration… out of balance. I have let life control me. I have allowed circumstances to remake me into something I am not. It is only in spending patient time alone… learning to just be (instead of always doing) that the reality of my present can become the discovery of my future. I’m looking forward to where God wants to take me with all I am learning. It should be an exciting journey filled with wonder and surprise.
How about you? Have you ever found your life tangled up beyond belief? What did you do to try to get it untangled? Did it work, or did you find it becoming more tangled the harder you tried?
Abba… untangle the snarls in my soul, banish all my complexes, and transform my fixed habit patterns that I might glorify You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.