You Are Your Mind and Marbled Ornaments- December 2019
This marbled ornament represents the billion thoughts in our brain on a daily basis. We started our session by writing down any thought that came into our heads. After 10 minutes, our papers were covered in a colorful array of words and designs. This showed the complexity of our minds.
This year, we have been using art to help us explore the topic of our identity. We are taking excerpts for the book, "Who God Says You Are - a Christian understanding of identity " by Klyne Snodgrass.
[All quotes in this post, are taken from the book.] The chapters in the book are organized by 9 facets of our identity: You are your body, You are your history, You are your relations, You are your commitments, You are your actions, You are your boundaries, You are an ongoing process of change, You are your future, and the one we are discussing now, You Are Your Mind.
"You are indeed your mind. You are the result of how you think about yourself. The internal self-interpreting, self-directing memory is the most complex, fascinating, enjoyable, and determinative part of identity, and it is the reason Scripture speaks so frequently of the mind. Your mind...collects, interprets, and prioritizes everything...and in effect says, "This is who I am because of what matters to me, and therefore I will live accordingly," even if you are unaware of the process. Without such thinking there is no identity. Given that, why would anyone cloud the mind with alcohol or drugs--or the inane drivel we are handed each day by our society? If thinking is the source of identity, why are we often so unconscious and uncaring about how and what we think?"
Why should we care? "We are ultimately responsible for and to ourselves, even though others shape us. An Old Testament scholar said, "The basic phenomenon peculiar to man and woman is the consciousness of responsibility." To be human is to have moral responsibility-responsibility for what we have been given, for what we do and why we did it, and for how we relate to others. We have been given this life; what will we make of ourselves so as not to waste life? Our mind sorts, organizes, explains, values, and chooses--what we will e and do. A main point in Scripture is that we will be held responsible for what happens with this process." [pg. 108,109]
After reading this book, I found out that we have multiple selves, and they are studied in the field of the mind. How many selves are there? A few are: the minimal self, [base self responding to needs and desires,] the responsible self, the accountable self, the summoning self, the executive self, just to name a few. Who knew? So, how do we self-interpret ourselves? "The process of self-interpretation is complex, but it centers around three interrelated actions: memory, valuing, and the dialogues that take place in and with the mind." [No wonder we feel crazy at times.]
"Memories shape us, both our own memories and memories others instill in us, but they are always partial and always only partially reliable. Memories are only partially reliable-and sometimes not reliable at all--because even as our memories shape us, we shape them. We often remember in the way most beneficial to ourselves, which is not only unfair to others but may be a lie. If we rewrite memory to avoid the truth of what we or others did, we falsify our own being. Even remembering is an ethical activity. The Psalmist said God desires truth--integrity-in the inward being.[Ps.51:6] Bob Hubbard says the inward being refers to "any place inside humans that is so hidden, secretive, and inaccessible that it can get away with anything without detection." We prefer lies. Lies are more inspirational than the truth, but you cannot live will there. Lies are more inspirational than the truth because they deceive, offer the unattainable, and ignore the harsh realities of life. Real truth, God's truth, is the only inspiration that does justice to truth and gives real hope. It is indeed more inspirational than any and all lies. Once again the biblical focus on the heart and truth in the inward parts points to something crucial. Without truth your identity has no adequate foundation. In Scripture the heart refers to the controlling center of one's being, which sounds very much like the executive self. Even the executive self can be deluded- or self-deluded. If the heart/executive self is key for the internal self-interpreting memory, how do we get it to be honest, just not defensive, and willing to obey? Surely here the grace of God and the Spirit of God must be the foundations o which we stand." [pg. 114,115]
"Valuing is what makes us human and is at the heart of any treatment of identity. Humans choose what they care about , and in the process they demonstrate who they are and set the course for their actions. All of us want to attach ourselves to what is valuable and good so we can see ourselves as valuable and good, even if it is not true. A violent Jamaican drug lord reportedly said, "I am no saint, but I am a good person." all of us want to label ourselves as good, even if we are not, and therefore, because it is about the good, valuing is a moral issue. Valuing is part of the foundation for living. The good both attracts and motivates us to be good. Who teaches values in our culture? Where do we find value and honor for ourselves? Family? Groups and associations? Accomplishments?" [Pg116]
"We have already seen that identity always involves dialogue, both with oneself and with others who tell us who we are. Language is the fundamental human characteristic, the one that distinguishes us most from all other animals. With the internal dialogue we converse with ourselves, often unconsciously, about how to interpret what has happened, about what has value, about the divisions within our being, about how to justify ourselves for not attaining the summoning self, and about how we will view and present ourselves. The dialogue with oneself is not merely a third factor, for the dialogue is about values and memory. The three items are intertwined. The internal dialogue is extremely important for identity, especially with regard to creating a strong, well-informed executive self. It is the way we live with ourselves. An earlier generation called this internal dialogue conscience. Conscience is not broad enough for the internal conversation is always active, and relates to all parts of our being. Even if dishonest and twisted, the internal conversation still goes on. Sometimes people give themselves an unrealistic positive evaluation that everyone, including God, knows is wrong. The more frequent and destructive problem with the internal dialogue is the artificial negative evaluation and accusing voice within. If we allow this negativity to define us, we will never be who God says we are.[pg.120]
"For Christians a powerful feature of the dialogues with ourselves and with the external community is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is part of that external community addressing us, whether we are Christian or not. We do not perform these conversations by ourselves, for the Spirit engages us, speaks to us, and guides the process, if we are willing to listen. The Spirit provides the most important voice shaping our identity and communicating what a person is supposed to be. If one takes seriously a message from God, conflicting assessments by humans tend to fade. The purpose of Scripture and the work of the Spirit is to transform our thinking. Suddenly our value, importance, and sense of belonging are not established primarily by the human community but by the grace and love of God. The purpose of our lives is removed from our self-centeredness and found in our relation to God. Messages sent by people and society do not enter our being unfiltered but are discerned as to whether they fit with God's intent." [pg.123]
"The important point is that being continually transformed, as Romans 12:1,2 instructs, is a mind thing. Why must there be a constant renewing of the mind? Because you are changing each day, your circumstances are changing, the world is changing, and your mind was deficient anyway. We need a continual God-directed renewal process in our heads, but God will not hit you on the head and make it happen. God seeks to engage you, to participate with you. You will have to give attention to construction of your mind in relation to God. The purpose of this is so you will be smart enough to make good decisions in forming you own identity. You will have to be serious about learning." [pg.124]
So, how do we even begin the process of self-awareness, self-renewal and addressing the thought life?
1. Be intentional to grow up, mature and take responsibility to transform the mind for best possible construction of your identity.
2. Seek Truth, not your truth or someone else's truth, but God's truth. This can be started in two ways: a. Scripture-for what Truth looks like and who God says you are
b. Create space to listen to truth. Remember, the Holy Spirit who is Truth is always talking whether we believe it or not, but we choose to ignore it and not listen.
This brain training does not come naturally and it must be worked at to seek quiet to listen and to seek God's Truth. Art can be a tool to quiet ourselves and to listen to what comes out of our time doing the art. Especially if we are intentional when we do the art, tot ask for revelation and truth.
An exercise to help slow your thoughts down so that you can notice them is to sit quietly and slow you breathing. Notice your deep breaths that can slow your internal self down to a sense of quiet.
After several breaths, notice your thoughts and write them down. How then can we achieve this sense of peace with God and truth about ourselves and others. We will have to trust someone higher and more powerful than ourselves. Below is a helpful writing on Trust and the mind from Streams in the Desert, 12/15.
Trust and Rest
Trust also in him
- Ps 37:3
The word trust is the heart word of faith. It is the Old Testament word, the word given to the early and infant stage of faith. The word faith expresses more the act of the will, the word belief the act of the mind or intellect, but trust is the language of the heart. The other has reference more to a truth believed or a thing expected.
Trust implies more than this, it sees and feels, and leans upon a person, a great, true, living heart of love. So let us “trust also in him,” through all the delays, in spite of all the difficulties, in the face of all the denials, notwithstanding all the seemings, even when we cannot understand the way, and know not the issue; still “trust also in him, and he will bring it to pass.” The way will open, the right issue will come, the end will be peace, the cloud will be lifted, and the light of an eternal noonday shall shine at last.
“Trust and rest when all around thee
Puts thy faith to sorest test;
Let no fear or foe confound thee,
Wait for God and trust and rest.
“Trust and rest with heart abiding,
Like a birdling in its nest,
Underneath His feathers hiding,
Fold thy wings and trust and rest.”
As we poured in flow acrylic paint into empty clear ornaments, we were reminded of the many thoughts in our internal dialogue. As we moved them around and let the paint flow, we saw how only God can make something beautiful out of our flawed minds.