We have been discussing making an offering of the body, which is an act of worship “offered by mind and heart.” The next thing we are to do is to let our minds be “remade” and our whole nature “transformed.” We cannot do this by ourselves. It is the Holy Spirit who must do the work. But we must open our minds to that work, submit to His control, think on the things that matter rather than on the things that come to nothing in the end. Here again we see both the necessity of a sovereign God working in and through us and the responsibility of the disciple himself to adapt to what God wants to do.
“There is no expedient to which a man will not resort to avoid the real labor of thinking,” wrote Sir Joshua Reynolds. Try following a single idea through to its conclusion. How many detours did you make? How many times did you stop to pass the time of day with another idea, utterly unrelated to the first? How often did you sink into the grass as it were, at the side of the road, and let your mind float with the clouds?
Today as I write I have a perfect environment for thinking. I am in a Norwegian hytte (hut) on an inland waterway of Norway’s Sørland. There is no human being nearby so far as I know, and if there were, I could not say much more to him than jeg snakker ikke Norsk (I don’t speak Norwegian). There is no telephone, no mail service, nor any plumbing or electricity. It is almost like being back again in the jungle. Who could ask for a situation more conducive to writing and thinking?
Yet I find my mind wandering to a thousand things that have nothing whatever to do with this chapter. Wondering if it is going to clear up, I go over to check the barometer. I go down to the dock to see if the mink who lives in the bank will show himself again. I pick a few wildflowers to put in a vase—Lars will be here later today (he has been spending some of his time in his hometown nearby, Kristiansand). I read a bit of Malcolm Muggeridge’s diaries. I fix a peanut-butter sandwich and a very expensive California carrot for lunch. I hear children’s voices and go out to listen more closely. (It is wonderful to hear children speak a language foreign to me!)
Before I had even finished that paragraph, I heard a familiar whistle. Lars. He was not supposed to be here for another three hours, but it is a welcome diversion from the thinking I intended to do but always find the hardest part of writing. We drink tea and read mail from Massachusetts, England, Illinois, and Idaho. Now Lars is sharpening the scythe before cutting the grass. Back to my typewriter and thinking.
“Think our way to a sober estimate based on the measure of faith that God has dealt to each of you.” Think your way to. Do we know how to think our way to anything?
We were traveling in a car with friends, discussing our great friend whom none of us had ever met, C. S. Lewis.
“Lewis thought,” said the man. “It is amazing what you can come up with by really thinking!”
We agreed. (Who could disagree with that?) There was a long pause. Then his wife said, “You know, I believe that’s what’s wrong with me. I never think. Not really.”
Most of us have neither the mental capacity nor the education Lewis had, but we could have the mental discipline “if we had a mind to.”
“The failure to cultivate the power of peaceful concentration is the greatest single cause of mental breakdown,” the great physician William Osler told the students of Yale one Sunday evening many years ago. He urged them to gain power over the mental mechanism by a few hours a day of quiet concentration in routine, in order, and in system. “Concentration is an art of slow acquisition, but little by little the mind is accustomed to habits of slow eating and careful digestion, by which alone you escape the ‘mental dyspepsy.’”
Elliot, Elisabeth. 2021. Joyful Surrender: 7 Disciplines for the Believer’s Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell.
We have just completed a 6-Part Study of Elezabeth Elliot’s classic book, Joyful Surrender. It is available as part of Good Questions Have Groups Talking Lesson Subscription Service. It is also available on Amazon