Tag Archives: Captive

Captive Brain

Rather listen? Subscribe to The Wayfarer Podcast Now on Your Favorite App!

How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
    All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
Psalm 36:7 (NRSVCE)

One of the things I’ve learned about myself on this life journey is that when I get anxious about something it is possible for my mind to dwell ceaselessly on it. Others don’t see it, and may have no idea that my thought life is myopically focused on the conflict I’m having with another person or the uncomfortable meeting I’m scheduled to have with a client. My brain gets fixated and I struggle to think of anything else.

Of course, that’s not healthy, and in learning that I do this I’ve had to subsequently learn how to stop myself. When Paul wrote to Jesus followers in Corinth he told them that he “takes every thought captive,” and I’ve realized that I have to do the same thing with my anxious mental myopia. I have to catch myself obsessing. I have to consciously choose to turn my attention elsewhere, and then I have to deliberately give my mind something positive on which to dwell.

In today’s chapter, Psalm 36, David does much the same thing in his lyrics. His song starts out being focused on his treacherous enemies. But, then after a couple of verses, he shifts his focus. It’s like a completely different song as he begins describing God’s goodness, faithfulness, and steadfast love. As I got to the end of the song I’d kind of forgotten all about the heinous enemies back in the first verse until in the last verse he asks God not to allow those treacherous enemies he’d been focused on get the better of him. David’s mental focus was not on his enemies, but on God’s faithful protection and provision.

In the quiet this morning, there are so many things on my plate, so many tasks on the list, and so many things on which my mind could spin into its manic myopia. I confess, I almost skipped my quiet time this morning, but that would have been a big mistake. I needed to consciously allow my mind and spirit to read and meditate on these good words and the important lesson of which I desperately needed to be reminded.

Some days, I just have to take my mind captive and allow it to be captivated by goodness of God.

Want to Read More?

Click on the image, or click here, to be taken to a simple, visual index of all the posts in this series from the book of Psalms.

There is also a list of recent chapter-a-day series indexed by book.

About This Post

These chapter-a-day posts began in 2006. It’s a very simple concept. I endeavor each weekday to read one chapter from the Bible. I then blog about my thoughts, insights, and feelings about the content of that chapter. Everyone is welcome to share this post, like this post, or add your own thoughts in a comment. Thank you to those who have become faithful, regular or occasional readers along the journey along with your encouragement.

In 2019 I began creating posts for each book, with an indexed list of all the chapters for that book. You can find the indexed list by clicking on this link.

Prior to that, I kept a cataloged index of all posts on one page. You can access that page by clicking on this link.

You can also access my audio and video messages, as well.

tomvanderwell@gmail.com @tomvanderwell

The Runaway Train of My Brain

we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
2 Corinthians 10:5b (NIV)

When I was in 8th grade I learned how to diagram sentences in English class and how great stories were structured. In high school I learned how to break down stories and characters into their component parts and how to construct a cohesive presentation. In college I learned how to critique, how to “beat” a script, and how to storyboard an idea. In my personal work with multiple counselors I’ve learned how to recognize my own patterns of thought and the conversations I’m always having with myself. I’m still a work in progress but I’ve been learning over my entire life journey how to meta-communicate. That is, to think not only about what is being communicated but how it’s being communicated.

I happen to be married to Wendy, who does the same thing. It makes marriage interesting.

Thus it was that when I came across the phrase above from today’s chapter what initially struck me was not the spiritual meaning of this phrase, but the fact that it is a recurring theme in conversation between Wendy and me. “Taking every thought captive” comes up regularly in our discussions as we process through patterns of thought and behavior. So, I’ve been thinking about that in the quiet this morning.

I’ve realized along my life journey that my thoughts are often a runaway train. My brains neurons, synapses and transmitters got wired a certain way like a set track and when particular situations or circumstances present themselves my thoughts mindlessly follow where that track leads. There’s no meta-communication. There’s no thought about my thoughts. I just follow the tracks and end up at the same stations of words, emotions, behaviors and situations.

When “taking every thought captive” comes up in conversation between Wendy and me, we are essentially referencing the process from the old Westerns of riding fast to grab control of the train engine and pull on the hand brake. We’re forcing ourselves to think about our thinking and then do something about it.

Wait a minute. I keep going to down this ‘train’ of thought and I never like where it leads me (or us). Why am I thinking this way? What situation/experience/circumstance/word triggered my brain engine to take off down this track? What assumptions have I made in thinking this way? What am I not considering? What am I afraid of? What do my thoughts, words, and actions reveal about what it is I really want or desire? What am I not seeing in my limited view of the situation? Is my perspective skewed, and, if so, by what?”

Forcing myself to consider and answer these questions put the brakes on the runaway train, take the mindless thoughts captive, and begin the process of choosing new paths of thought toward better places in life and relationship.

This morning I’m thankful for God-given brains that are naturally powerful at learning, adapting, and changing. I’m grateful for God who is infinitely gracious with this wayfarer’s life-long journey of chasing down runaway thoughts and laying down new tracks. I am equally grateful for the spiritual power that assists in the mental processing. I am reminded that Jesus great commandment includes loving God with all of my mind as well as my heart, soul, and strength.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a train to catch.

Personal Captivity

Source: Doug Floyd
Source: Doug Floyd

Set me free from my prison,
    that I may praise your name.
Psalm 142:7 (NIV)

The key to understanding David’s “prison” is by reading the liner notes to this particular song’s lyrics: “A maskil of David. When he was in the cave. A prayer.” The fact that the note is specific in mentioning “the” cave means that it refers to the Cave of Adullam which was a secret fortress and a bandits hideout. David was on the run from King Saul who unjustly wanted to wipe him out. There was a price on his head. For David, as time passed, the cave transformed itself from a place of refuge into a personal prison.

One of the definitions of “prison” is “any place of confinement or involuntary restraint.” Our prison can be any number of places that have nothing to do with steel bars and razor wire. Our prison can be a house or a room within a house. For a weary traveller, an airport, airplane or auto can become a prison. Relationships can become tortuous places of confinement. For those struggling with addictions, disorders, disease or handicap, our very own bodies can become our prison cell. Any who have struggled with the weight of guilt and shame know that our very soul can become our personal penitentiary.

David’s song is a wailing blues number and a desperate cry for salvation from his intensely personal problems. Each of us experience our own places of confinement. Sometimes we have been placed there involuntarily. Other times we find, like David, that a place we once ran for refuge has become a source of torment. Crazier still, we sometimes choose to stay in our personal prison because the torment we know seems less fearful than the freedom that is available to us.

I am reminded this morning of the quote from the prophet Isaiah which became the core of Jesus’ first public teaching:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” [emphasis added]

Today, I am praying for myself and all those who know the pain of captivity in all of its diverse and personal manifestations. My prayer is rooted in Jesus’ words: “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

wayfarer chapter index banner

Enhanced by Zemanta