The furnace went out last weekend, but I did not cry. Although it was 4 degrees outside and 55 degrees inside when we woke the next morning, I rolled with the punches and did just fine through the whole trial.
But yesterday I went down into the crawl space for the first time, to put away some lingering Christmas supplies. Right at the base of the ladder was the new furnace we had purchased (happy New Year!) It was a welcome sight, after four days of trying to heat a large house with space heaters in the dead of a Montana winter. Then my eyes swept around the crawl space, and my shoulders sagged.
Most of our life is in the crawl space. We live with my mother-in-law and her sister, so we have stored our possessions below the house. The furnace guys had to move a whole lot of stuff, to make way for the new furnace, and the new furnace was much longer than what we had before. Now what was I going to do with everything that had been displaced? It meant the entire crowded crawl space was going to need to be re-organized, which is not an easy task when you have to move everything bent over and trying not to bash your head on floor joists and pipes. I came back up the ladder, closed the trap door, and had myself a good cry.
“Maybe it could just be a messy place,” Matt said to me. “You’re the only one who goes down there.”
I appreciated his efforts to calm my inner perfectionist, but I replied that I climb down the ladder on a regular basis to get things. I frequently use supplies from the crawl space, so our possessions need to be in order.
I want to present the idea to you that our brains are like that crawl space. We have thoughts stored down in the hidden storage space of our brains, and we use those thoughts for every decision we make. We can’t afford for them to be chaotic.
Something I’ve been doing over the last few months is following Dr. Caroline Leaf’s method of renewing the mind, from her books Switch on Your Brain and Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess. For 21 days in December, I set my timer for seven minutes per day and focused on one area of thought that was a horrible mess in my mind. I examined the negative thought and the emotions that were wrapped like tendrils around that thought. I spent time focusing on what healthy, Bible-centered thinking should replace the mess. I then followed Dr. Leaf’s advice to practice the new, healthy thinking throughout the day. This was a wonderfully transformative activity for me. It was difficult work, but the results have been well worth the effort.
Imagine going down into the crawl space of your mind and choosing one area to work on for 21 days. It’s uncomfortable, backbreaking work. There are spiders and cobwebs. It’s cold. The floor is uneven, with dried concrete lumps underneath the industrial plastic that covers the ground. Most assuredly you’ll bash your head on something above you at some point. It is fairly miserable work. But this is where your life is, and to start managing it better is a movement toward the abundant life Jesus promises us.
Paul tells believers that we are to take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV). We can’t just close the trap door of our brains and ignore our troublesome thoughts and their corresponding unruly emotions.
I’m going under the house today, and I’ve decided one place where I’m going to start working. It won’t fix the whole space, but it will be a start. At the same time, I’ve also picked a new trouble spot in my thinking, and I’m getting ready to spend 21 days examining that specific place of anxiety, praying and spending time with the Lord, to pull out those thoughts, examine them, get them in order, and put them back all neat and healthy. I’m hoping to develop a habit of doing this work for the rest of my life, until I have a new mind and a completely transformed life.
What thought troubles you most often these days, and how long have you been struggling with it? I highly recommend that you read Switch on Your Brain, if you are able. Begin this new year by taking your most troublesome thought captive and making it obey the commands of Christ.