He saw the "F" word on the bathroom wall at school the other day. While Connor doesn't know what it means, all kids know that that word is a heavy hitter, absolutely never allowed, a reeealllly bad one. After he and a buddy saw it, they went to tell the janitor about it who cleaned it off the wall. Like so much in life, out of sight does not mean out of mind.
Everyday presents teaching moments with our kids; we all know that. However, while I wish this particular opportunity hadn't come up quite so soon, the principle that Connor is learning applies to more than just this situation.
Connor has confessed to having trouble not thinking about the word, to which I promptly told him to try hard not to think about it. He said he couldn't not think about it. Then it hit me....this is a perfect opportunity to start teaching him about taking every thought captive.
Too often we assume that we have no control over where our minds wander to, which personally I think is a cop-out. It takes discipline and awareness, but it is possible to direct our thoughts in the direction we want them to go. It is more than just "not" thinking about something, it is choosing to focus our minds on other things. Have you ever tried not to think about the argument you had with someone, but spend all your mental energy rehashing and replaying and hoping you get a chance to fight again because this time you have all your come-backs ready? Or maybe you are trying really hard not to think about the Halloween candy, but it keeps calling your name. (That's why I buy stuff that I don't like to eat...)
2 Corinthians 10:5 says that we are to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. That means when something isn't lining up biblically, we capture it. We replace it with a truth of God, which is scripture. Find a scripture that speaks truth into whatever situation you are dealing with. Prayer is good...God please help me not to think ugly thoughts...but it is not the tool of choice. Andy Stanley says it is like trying to drill a hole with a hammer. A hammer is a wonderful tool, but it is not the tool for the job. To make our thoughts obedient, to make them go where we want them to, we need the Word of God.
Some great go-to verses for relationship difficulties are Philippians 4:6` and Ephesians 4:29 . Philippians teaches us how and where to focus our minds, and it isn't on the things that makes us nuts. Ephesians reminds us of how we are to use the power of our words. When an unwelcome thought comes into our head, instead of letting take control of our emotions and giving it room to grow, we take it captive by saying a verse that speaks to the situation. If I am afraid, I might recite Joshua 1:9 that says "Do not fear, for I am with you." It reminds me that God is always with me, whether or not I feel it.
If you don't know how to find a verse to cling to, check out http://www.blueletterbible.org/ ; you can enter key words to search by. It will bring up verses with that particular word in it. It takes discipline and awareness of what is going on in our heads to direct our thoughts. Diligence is required. It is a slippery slope from thinking an ugly thought to harboring ugly feelings to creating an environment of bitterness to out and out not liking someone anymore and deciding to do life without them anymore. This saying puts it pretty succinctly:
“Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”
For Connor, while I shared some scriptures with him, I started laying the groundwork that he is responsible for what he thinks, and that it starts with what he allows in his head. He couldn't help seeing what he saw, but he didn't need to keep coming back to it and talking about it with his friends. He gave one word room to grow and take up a lot of space in his thoughts. For practical advice, I told him to think about skateboarding and everything he loves about it. Focus him mind elsewhere and not give the other word room. Crowd it out with different words. It was working pretty well until he saw a cheerleader sweater with a giant red "F" on it...
If all this talk discourages you, let me encourage you with one of my favorites, Philippians 4:13, which says, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." You can do this.