Joseph found his betrothed to be with child-and not by him. "Being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, [he] resolved to divorce her quietly" rather than throw the book at her (Matthew 1:19). Small footnote in Scripture; big leap in this reader's understanding. Here was a thinker, a grappler, who wrestled within the parameters of righteousness and found one way more excellent than another.
Father Abraham, there was another thinker. He "considered his own body, which was as good as dead." Then he thought about the promise of God "that he should become the father of many nations." Then he thought about God's track record for keeping His word, and Abraham emerged from that mental exercise deciding to trust in God (Romans 4).
Mary "pondered" (Luke 2:19), and Daniel "sought to understand" (Daniel 8:15), and the Psalmist cried, "Search me" (Psalm 139:23). None of them thought it unscriptural to be analytical, or a usurpation of the Holy Spirit's role to engage their faculty of reason. The Lord was in the process.
If the Pharisees had known what it meant to love the Lord with "all your mind" (Mark 12:30) and not to reduce righteousness to rote rules, they might have understood why mercy is better than sacrifice (Matthew 12:7), and why money donated to the Temple does not absolve you of obligation to your parents (Matthew 15:1-9), and why people hanging around Jesus don't feel like fasting (Mark 2:18-22).
I have often wished the Christian life were a to-do list dispensed daily from on high, eliminating guesswork:
- Today, call your mother
- Increase your tithe by $20
- Send Calvin to Philmont Christian Academy
- Read this book, not that one
- Move to Winnsboro, Texas
I would gladly comply with that kind of piety. But I think the Christian life is by faith in order that it be by engagement of "all your mind" (Romans 14:5b).
How would you like it if your husband gave you his body and paycheck but showed no interest in getting to know you? God wants your mind more than your tithe. Likewise, the second great commandment is a mental workout, too, say Allender and Longman in Bold Love. Who is my neighbor? How does a mile in his shoes feel? How can I love him for his own good?
They say we use just a fraction of our minds. I do. Something is bugging me-dull, like a pebble in the shoe-and I just live with it, carrying free-floating angst all day. Why not set my mind to name it, and locate the "root" of that bothersome "fruit" (Luke 6:43-45)? The unjust steward in Luke 16:1-8 didn't blubber but brainstormed. "Crying is all right in its way while it lasts. But you have to stop sooner or later, and then you still have to decide what to do" (C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair).
Self-diagnostic questions: Why am I miserable? What desire of mine is being frustrated? What is it I fear? (Here you will face some ugly truths.) Follow the process through and you are brought to a decision point. What was amorphous before is now a fully conscious raft of options.
I don't know what the inside of your head looks like, but mine looks like Guernica. You don't realize how out of control your thought life is until the day you try to rein it in. Redeemer, redeem every part of me, "take every thought captive" (2 Corinthians 10:5)!
Some things I've decided in my mind you would probably call legalistic. There are foods I don't do because they lead me to weight gain, and weight gain to depression. Depression, in turn, hinders my race. Ergo, donuts are sin for me, but not for you. (It's just between me and God.)
My friend Barbara's hip starts aching and she knows it's time for a visit to the chiropractor, and he does this thing with her ankle and it puts her whole body back in alignment. What's good for hips and cars is good for minds. I take regular inventory: "OK," I say to myself: "What is it I said I believed about Jesus?" "Do I have good cause to believe it?" "Shall I continue to follow Christ or not?"
Jesus once put a demoniac "in his right mind" (Mark 5:15). I thought about that and figured He can do it again.