I find myself grappling for creativity and gratitude in this drawn out season of isolation and uncertainty. There is much threatening to steal joy, hope, life. History often tells that such times stimulate artists-- encouraging mastery and new ideas. Instead, right now, the creative minds I engage feel stifled and stagnant. It is difficult to put pen to paper. When I encourage myself to do so, the product feels less than profound. Perhaps, during this time, I expect too much from myself. Expectation is a familiar thief. Stealing not just creativity and motivation, but joy. Thoughts transform from negative to dangerous, anxious, and depressing. I continue to consume a lot of literature but produce very little. Much of my intake either mutes or encourages a negative spiral. I am desperate for something more than my constant companions of apathy and anxiety.
A couple months ago, I reluctantly picked up Jenny Allen’s new book “Get Out of Your Head”. My weary heart did not want to do the work necessary in overcoming negativity. However, I also understood that it is impossible to prevail standing still. Allen's book is a guide to fighting the war in our minds. She explains how inner thoughts, often unchecked and free flowing, inform feelings that determine actions. Ultimately, thoughts control us. Therefore it is extremely important that thoughts are based in truth. If they are false, then feelings cannot be trusted, and actions suffer. I started this book, convinced I maintained a healthy and reliable thought foundation. I quickly realized, I've consistently consumed lies for the majority of my life.
I used to regard my feelings as facts. Needless to say, it is extremely disorienting to discover the opposite is true. All of a sudden my mental game was in shambles. Fortunately, Allen is quick to point to the solution. The Spirit of God offers a renewing of the mind to all who believe in Him (Romans 12:2). Not only do I possess the power of discernment, but I now have the power to choose. Accepting something that is false invites a downward spiral into shame, self-pity, and despair. In contrast, rejecting a lie and replacing it with truth welcomes an upward spiral toward hope, peace, and contentment. I want that. Who doesn’t want that? Therefore, it is imperative that I become a truth seeker. With the help of the Spirit, I can see the world and myself through God's merciful eyes. It is a lifelong process defined by that daily choice.
As I enter into Advent, I am determined to keep my focus on what is true. Instead of weighing myself down with unrealistic expectations, I strive to anticipate the One who changed it all. Waiting is difficult. To stay focused, I’m writing a series of letters, prayers, and psalms. This raw collection is a fight to keep my gaze on the Lord no matter where my head and feelings find me. They are concise and often unfinished, but I share them as one who is also not yet complete. I will post them in the weeks to come, starting with a "Letter to Self" published tomorrow. In a culture that encourages us to own our feelings, let us do one better. Let us seek truth that heals so we can begin to feel better.