When I turned around from running cold tap water into the sizzling skillet last night, I discovered Daniel rubbing his oven-mitted hand across the stovetop burner asking himself outloud, “I wonder if this is hot?”
“Oh my goodness! What are you doing?” I yelled.
I grabbed his hand away and turned the mitt over to show him the scorched side. I asked him if he could smell it burning, and told him that what he did was really dangerous.
My reaction scared him, and I hope that the result will be that he won't try that again.
His curiosity had led to a chemical reaction: something that can't be undone. There's no such thing as “unburning what's been burned.”
Last month David and Daniel got some play-doh as a post-surgery gift. David wanted to see what would happen if he mixed his two colors of green and purple together. The resulting drab gray color satisfied his curiosity, and now he knows that the vibrant original colors won't come back. After his experiment, he convinced Daniel to mix his orange and yellow together. Daniel didn't play with his play-doh as long, so the two bright colors are both still there. But if he continues to play, they will eventually turn into one color. Another reaction that can't be undone because a new substance will be formed.
Our sermon series during Lent is on Taking Every Thought Captive. Thomas has been teaching on 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 about our minds being a battlefield. About our need to demolish the strongholds we have in our lives. About reaching for the right weapons.
We formed a new small group of four families, meeting every Sunday after church, to discuss the sermons during Lent and the book the church is reading together: 40 Days to a Joy-Filled Life by Tommy Newberry. Yesterday our group discussed what our strongholds are, how our jobs/environments can reinforce them, how we find ways to quiet our hearts (with all the bees buzzing around) and what it looks like to choose joy. We talked about how easy it is to get stuck in a rut of negative cycles. And how we desire to be more proactive in coming up with a strategy to help us respond differently when we're tempted to fall back into our old ways.
This morning I've been thinking about reactions.
Child's bad behavior + parent's irritability/impatience, seeing the child through the lens of the bad behavior, and overreacting because strongholds have been triggered = not a positive outcome
Child's bad behavior + parent's peace of mind, ability to see past the behavior to the heart of the child, and awareness/ability to recognize triggers and not be controlled by them = a transformed outcome
The 40 Days book emphasizes that we always have a choice for gratitude: we can choose to look for the good in others/ourselves/our world. It will always be easier to complain, especially if we're in an environment of complaining people. And we can always focus on the bad because its never going away. But the challenge is to be renewed in our minds and to lift our eyes higher than our circumstances.
“Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing, and perfect will.” Romans 12:2
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8
We can't unburn what's been burned, and so we must live with the consequences of our (and others') bad decisions in the past. But we have new choices to make each day. We don't have to continue down the well-worn path of negative patterns. We can keep our play-doh colors vibrant by not conforming to the ways of the world. We can make the choice to let God transform our minds.
Thomas said “You cannot change your thinking without God. God will not change your thinking without you.”
God + you working together = transformation
That's the kind of reaction I want. Don't you?