BREAKING NEWS: We ran out of coffee filters today. More on that story later.
. . . . .
Think with me for a moment.
What if we had no thoughts?
What if we had no way of thinking thoughts without saying them aloud? What if our thoughts could only be processed as verbal language for everyone around us to hear? Would they be appalled by what you said? Would they laugh? Would they be left to question who you really are?
For guys, this would mean that they would blurt out something about sex every seven seconds, according to several studies. Other studies argue that men think just as much about food and sleep as they do sex during the day. Regardless, if we were unable to keep our thoughts to ourselves and said everything we thought, studies say that guys are more likely to have a few more moments of silence representing times of pure blank mindedness.
As for the girls, I believe our spoken thoughts would be a little less coherent…
We girls tend to think a lot more than the guys do. A lot more.
So is it better for all parties involved that we have mental fortresses to withhold our thoughts? Is it better that we don’t have to say everything we are thinking all the time?
Perhaps. It would certainly save us from a lot of embarrassment. It makes for a quieter world to live in. It keeps feelings from being hurt more than they already are.
Thank God for thoughts. He must have known what our thought life would consist of when He created us with the ability to differentiate thoughts and choose our spoken words. He must have known that we would not live pure lives on our own and have only good and lovely thoughts to share with our peers.
I believe that in giving us the choice to hold back our thoughts, the ability to filter what we should say versus what we are better off not saying, God was giving us a a merciful mechanism for our minds.
Think about it.
We don’t deserve to have the ability to withhold our poor thoughts. We should have to own up to what we’re thinking all the time; after all, we let ourselves think it. We chose to think it. We let the thoughts linger and we let ourselves meditate on them until we’re distracted by the next set of thoughts.
(By the way, just for the record, I do believe that some thoughts we aren’t necessarily held accountable for the first time around. I believe that sometimes thoughts really do just come out of nowhere -or more like planted by a being hellbent on our destruction- and should we shake them off when they come, we are not responsible for their creation. It’s the thoughts we invite to stay for a while and come back again that are put on our track record.)
And yet, God gives us some mercy in the form of cerebral walls that allow us the chance to at least examine our thoughts before acting on them, before speaking them into existence.
Side note: I really do believe spoken words are so powerful; I really believe you can speak things into existence, especially in regards to people.
God gave us silent, mental thoughts to think without the obligation to say them verbally.
God also gave us criteria for what those silent, mental thoughts should entail:
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, 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 NIV (Emphasis mine)
Blog confessional #3: My thoughts are not pure. They’re downright disgraceful sometimes.
It’s almost like I think it’s okay to think these things sometimes because no one can hear my thoughts, and therefore no proof or evidence of these thoughts exists. Some folks might say this is a valid argument and find all this talk of “thoughts” being a waste of blog space.
But, perhaps God intended for our thoughts to be more than just a place where we can think things without consequence or responsibility. Perhaps God made thoughts to be more than thoughts, more than just our own personal thoughts. Perhaps He made sure we knew what was expected of our thought life in Philippians 4:8 so that our thoughts could be more than what we’ve made them to be: a place to indulge in guilty pleasures, relish in unheard remarks about others and focus on ourselves.
In my South Florida home where I grew up, I was lucky enough to have an in-ground swimming pool. This pool was where I “baptized” my brother many a time (even though he had already been dunked in church water long before then). This pool was where I received my summer rays of sunshine and pre-skin cancer. This pool was where I ate watermelon slices and grapes for snacks on hot days when I didn’t want to leave the water. The swimming pool was my retreat located right outside our back door.
However, the joy that accompanied the swimming pool came with a price. Our home is surrounded by several looming oak trees whose leaves fall for months on end. Year-round, my family had the responsibility of maintaining the swimming pool’s condition (My father jokingly calls himself our “pool guy,” although I never saw the humor in this statement). Each of us took a part in making sure the pool was free of leaves and growing algae by removing any leaves that might have fallen in with a net and adding chemicals in the pool as needed.
But, no matter how much chlorine had been dumped in the pool or how many times the pool had been “dipped,” there was one crucial step in keeping the pool clean and running that could not be overlooked for any long length of time. The pool filter, a tall cylinder with spongy, accordion-styler ridges, was where anything that had not been taken care of with the net or chemicals ended up. The pool filter collected the dirtiest remnants of the pool water, and it was the reason why we had a clear looking pool at all. Otherwise, we would have a “swimming pond.” The pool filter worked behind the scenes in a large container that was hidden from view of the pool itself.
As a family, we each took turns on occasion spraying the filter with the pressure washer. This would deep-clean the ridges of the filter so that it could collect more pool water nastiness. Why was this so important? Without taking the time to clean the filter, the catch-all of what we couldn’t get ourselves with pool chemicals or nets, the pool would be unbearably disgusting.
The pool filter is a lot like our thoughts. Both are the catch-all of the nastiness we receive from the outside world. Both operate in the unseen, and both need to be intentionally cleaned. Otherwise, what is seen would be too dirty to handle.
“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 your character. And watch your character, for it becomes your destiny! What we think we become. My father always said that… and I think I am fine.”
-Margaret Thatcher, “The Iron Lady”
Our thoughts are not our own. They are to be kept “clean” and worthy of being carried out as spoken words, visible actions, expected habits and perceived character. We are to regulate our thoughts so that they match up to what God would have them to be, not to earn points with the Big Man, but to protect us from causing harm to ourselves and others.
Whatever is TRUE.
Does it line up with something God would say in His Word? Does it line up with something God would say Himself? (By the way: those two criteria are one in the same, not contradictory to each other.)
Whatever is NOBLE.
Would the King of Kings who sits on the heavenly throne condone it to be said before a holy procession? Is it appropriate for the Kingdom’s audience?
Whatever is RIGHT.
Is it just? Is it fair? Is it just and fair in view of the Grace and Mercy you have received for your sins?
Whatever is PURE.
This isn’t just about whether it’s rated PG-13 or higher due to sexual content. This is about motives and the quality of the heart. What’s your heart’s desire? Is it genuine or tainted by worldly influences or selfish lusts?
Whatever is LOVELY.
Ok. Bunny rabbits and flowers and puppies that poop rainbows don’t have to be involved here. But, how does it compare to the ugliness of sin, the darkness that accompanies anything not of God Himself? Does it provoke positive emotions?
Whatever is ADMIRABLE.
Would Christ Jesus give it a nod of approval? Would younger and older Christians alike admire the thought?
These are some pretty strict guidelines for thoughts that do not give much wiggle room…
So does this mean we are to never have a single thought that isn’t accompanied by angelic voices and heavenly harps playing in the background? Is it even possible to think in these terms 24 hours of the day, 7 days a week?
I’m not sure. However, I do believe that God knows fully our humanity and capabilities. I think He gives us these criteria so we know that letting our thoughts run freely without restraint is not the best choice for us. Even so, my guess is He has plenty of grace for when we let the occasional thought slip by without being examined…
It’s the filter that keeps us from being intolerable. It’s our thoughts being kept clean that keeps us from damaging our souls and others. It’s God’s grace that catches us when we let our filters get clogged with what is untrue, cheap, wrong, impure, ugly, and unbecoming of anyone.
Like coffee filters that are imperative to my morning routines, God’s grace is the only reason why I can wake up and keep going. Inevitably, I will need His grace at some point today. Inevitably, I will need some coffee to get through today’s list of to-do’s. That is why I have to go get some coffee filters now. I can’t go a day without coffee (or grace) in my system.
Keep out the bad, let in the good. Keep us running without stumbling or causing another to stumble. Keep our thoughts from becoming words, actions, habits, or character that we would be ashamed of. That’s the power of filters: whether they be for our minds, pools or coffee pots.