When my eyes open each morning its like my brain hears a starters pistol fire. My mind is off to the races.
At times throughout a given day I will find myself stalled, like this slow computer I work on, frozen, eyes staring out at some sort of nothing and my mind does its work without me noticing for a moment a too. I feel in those times how fast my mind races beyond me.
I have often been criticized for “thinking” too much. Yet I often let it fall away, convinced my thinking is part of the best of me.
So it’s little wonder that the most difficult and most necessary part of my spiritual discipline is to slow my mind down and simply try to not think. Mediation is hard, really hard. Yet the more I think the more I realize I need to think less to think better and be better.
For some reason one of my greatest strengths as a person, my ability to think critically and thoroughly about all that which interests me, is a powerful obstacle to my relationship with the Divine.
So as I continue to sift through the detritus of my recent spiritual slump, I return to one of the fundamental parts of who I am. If I am made in God’s image, it seems fair to ask, is a God a thinker too?
On hand it sounds absurd. Of course God’s a thinker right? It’s the one trait more than any other that makes us fully and uniquely human, crafted in God’s image. He had to think all this up in the first place, right?
But on the other… what the hell does God have to think about anyway? She already knows all the answers, right? Wouldn’t thinking for God be sort of like doing the same crossword puzzle over and over and over and never getting a new one?
My identity is fiercely tied to my thinking. So it serves to reason that my ego is also closely tied to the power of my mind. Where the ego goes, I have learned to be wary.
So I have to pause, reset and think some more. Have I made an idol of my brain in a way that blocks God off from my heart?
God is fiercely jealous. Idolatry seems to be the central focus of scriptural laws in the Old Testament. When Saul tries to “out think” God, Samuel calls it witchcraft and forever removes God’s anointing. Jesus seems comfortable with prostitutes, boozers, course talking men, and swindlers, but he has nothing but harsh words for the religious “thinkers” of his day.
So what do I do with these thoughts? Why, of course, I think some more. I think about how I’ve seen truly intelligent, brilliant, wonderful people bereft of the human connection and ability to connect heart-to-heart with another person. I’ve seen dedicated followers of God who have so little love for others. I’ve seen people blessed with beautiful minds have nothing but scorn and elitism for others less fortunate.
Never one to let a good thought lie idle, I think so more. Like Tevye I say, “on the other hand…” I’ve seen far too many believers with their heads checked at the door. All that happy clappy Christianity lacks what Alan Jones in Soul Making called spiritual maturity. And it’s often not harmless. I’ve spoken to too many religiously intolerant who unthinking barf up Bible verses as excuses for abuse, hate, racism, excess and any number of things I think to be wrong.
Clearly God has some thoughts about all of that right? And round my thoughts go, both a sprint and marathon, a restless always of thought that makes me tired just thinking about it.
I often ask The Bride what she’s thinking. She’ll say, “nothing.” I call bullshit. “You can’t think nothing,” I’ll say. She’ll smile and say, “you can’t think nothing, but I do it just fine.”
See when I set out to write this post I set a goal of 400 words. It’s far longer now… typical…
Perhaps, just perhaps, I’ve been thinking about this all wrong for a long, long time. For example: go back to St. Paul, one of the truly great thinkers of the Christian faith, who ironically doesn’t list thinking as one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit: (Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control). In the great Romans crescendo of Chapters 12 and 13, Paul doesn’t hail his mind, but : “love, joy and peace… and the greatest of these is love.” The great song of love that follows comes from a most unlikely source, a zealous celibate with vastly limited appreciation of women.
Old Testament prophets usually use emotional metaphors for God’s love, like that of a lover, mother, shepherd and passionate protector. Rarely is our relationship with God defined by how we think about God.
In short, that which makes me most Godlike is also that which so often keeps me from God.
In someways its simple: Too often my relationship with God is in my head while his heart goes untouched by mine for far too long. I become the old adage of the farmer who tells his wife, “I said I loved you when I married you. If I change my mind, I’ll let you know.”
Too often I become the loveless, passion-less, heat-less lover of God who thinks of Her often but embraces her never.
Have you ever been in love? Have you experienced the all-consuming enrapture of that falling off a cliff love for someone? Does it last? Not often, but do we want it to? Always.
And I think God wants it too as well. I think the other side of this life will be a place where love endures with all its thrilling, all-consuming intensity. I know there will be plenty of time for my brain to do its best work in heaven too, but as I pursue the idea of Jesus prayer here “on Earth as it is in heaven,” I realize that this slump is not one I can think my way out of.