You, Me, Jesus and Smith and Wesson

          

  Once in my life I found myself in Honduras helping build a church in the territory between two rival gangs that kept killing each other.  The hope was that the church was on "neutral ground" so it could be a safe haven to stand in between these two gangs and stop the violence.  The people we partnered with assured our safety as long as we stayed away from a few streets and kept near the church build.  So of course, our supply truck happened to break down on one of these sketchy side streets with a lot of gang activity and it stopped our ability to get any work done.  Without it all we could do was swelter in the jungle and watch one of our team members gleefully catch tarantulas and bring them way too close to our faces while he told us fun facts about them.  Our own personal animal planet.  Yay!  Please get the supply truck!  I would rather be making bricks!

            We also happened to have a brave-hearted mechanic on our team who volunteered to walk to the truck to fix it.  The local driver walked with him and as they headed to the broken truck the brave mechanic said, "Well my friend, It's you, me and Jesus walking down this street.  We will be fine." and the driver responded, "Si, you, me, Jesus, and Smith and Wesson." as he pulled back his coat to reveal a gun tucked into his pants.  Well okay then.

When you find yourself walking through a bad neighborhood, it's good to have friends.

 

 I thought of this story as I was thinking about navigating the wacky territory that makes up our minds, our thoughts and feelings, our judgment calls, our head space.  My favorite quote from Anne Lamott says, "My mind is like a bad neighborhood.  I try to never go there alone."

            I don't know if you can relate, but sometimes our minds lie to us.  They give us a limited perspective on reality.  They can make the worst scenario out of our circumstances with worry.  They whisper that we are not enough and never will be. That our hot mess will never change.  That our situation will always look like this no matter how faithful we are with it.  That people in our lives that have caused some level of offense are evil jerkfaces instead of just another nuanced human being doing the best they can.  That good things will always be just out of reach.  That we don't fit in.  That we aren't loved.

            Whatever the lie, whatever the thinking error, we find ourselves in the middle of a turf war over our window on the truth and sometimes that window gets really grimy.  Some turf wars last days, some have been raging for years and the body count is high, with years of battle scars and wrecked hopes.   Sometimes we need a friend to walk through the bad neighborhood with.  We need wise council, someone who is packin some heat in the wisdom and perspective department.  Our wisest council will always be the truth of Jesus but many times in my life that truth has come wrapped in skin and it looks like a trusted friend.

            Friends can help unpack deep lies, take them out into the light of day, shake out the dirt, hold them up and show us all the holes in the faulty lie logic.  They can speak back the truth of God and remind us of our identity in Christ and how very madly, dearly, recklessly loved we are.  They can encourage us to be our best selves, who we were made to be.  Yes, it's hard, vulnerable work to share our funky headspace with someone, but it can be a valuable tool in our arsenal if used correctly and cautiously.

            You were not made to keep cruising circles through this bad neighborhood, waiting for the next lie to cut you down.  Oh, how that limits the power and beauty of this life we have been given!  Our minds are prone to get into loops and we actually carve out neural pathways of bad thoughts.  These thoughts become a type of brain habit.  However, the opposite is also true, hallelujah amen.  When we recognize these thoughts as lies and correct them with truth, we can create new pathways that change our default thinking.  The Bible calls this taking our thoughts captive and I love that description ("We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." 2 Corinthians 10:5  NIV).  Sometimes you just gotta say NO MORE, track those bad thug thoughts down, flash the truth at them, and reclaim your neighborhood.

            But it takes work, commitment and sometimes we are so worn out from traveling the same old loop that it takes a brave beautiful person in our life to shine a flashlight into the dark spaces and speak courage over us, to pray for us when we have no words, to expose lies that are so deep we don't see them anymore.

            I have been trapped in more than one bad neighborhood in my head (a particular curse of someone who thinks a lot and works by themselves.  All my over thinkers out there-represent!  You know who you are...because you have thought about it...a lot.) but one time in particular, I was struggling with belonging.  It happened a while after we had moved.  It was just long enough that I felt like my "old friends" were moving on with life and I didn't have a good set of trusted new friends.  A few unkind remarks had been lobbed my way at church from people who didn't know me at all and should have no land to claim in my head, and our life had started to get really hard.  I was feeling alone and starting to travel the path of, "Something must be wrong with me.  I can't make friends.  Maybe I don't belong here.  Where is God?"  A few dear friends stood along side me, met with me regularly and unpacked the lies I was telling myself.  It took a long long time and I clung to them and their kind words like sprinkles on a donut.  I felt like a burden, a broken record, a cautionary tail.  But they were Jesus with skin on and they stayed and they helped me find a stronger version of myself by walking through all the garbage to the other side where the truth lives.

            There have also been many times where I had no "people" to walk a road with me.   I know that God knows best and sometimes we just have to slog it out with him.  We aren't supposed to lean so heavily on another brother or sister that they feel like salvation and it is a fine line to dance.  Sometimes, in some situations God knows we need to just slow dance that one with him.

            Getting from there to here meant a few things needed to change for me.  I worked at filling my life, my heart, my mind with truth.  I looked for truth in the Bible, and asked God for discernment and to expose any lies I had been believing.  I actively recognized and replaced negative, untruthful, thoughts with truth to derail my negative patterns.

            I didn't think about it then but since it was so helpful for me to have trusted people in this instance, praying for God to reveal a person you can trust to help you unpack the lies is a good thing.  Talking through lies with a trusted person (not the whole world, or Facebook or your friend that you really love but is a bit of a gossip) can help build faith and kill shame.  It has been shown to increase optimism, the feeling of being understood and is a big step in healing and moving on.  It is hard to trust people with this for good reason and it's good to be very careful, but when it works it is so good for the heart!

 

            I hope you didn't need to hear this today.  I hope all your thoughts are sunshine and bunnies and somewhere over the rainbow all you dreams come true.  But if your heart is heavy and you are catching a whisper of a lie in your life or you know that you have been circling around this pile of garbage for a while, friend, it's time to take back your neighborhood.  You, me, and Jesus walking down this street.  We will be fine.

 

 

 

*All images copyright 2000-2018 Jon and Lynsey Knapp

 

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