Monday, April 21, 2014

How do I feel? Is that what is important?

Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions, they become habits. Watch your habits, they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny. -- Frank Outlaw

Those words were quoted in the movie Ironlady about Margaret Thatcher.  That is, in fact, where I first heard them.  I had trouble finding an author (internet search) but it seems safe to say many believe their source comes from Frank Outlaw.

They accord well with Jesus' warning about the desires of the heart being the problem in sin more than the temptations around us.  Scripture is replete with warnings about what comes from the filthy domain of sin that our hearts have become since the fall in Eden.  We confess such on Sunday mornings (miserable sinners, sinful by nature).  James laments that the tongue can speak so wonderfully the praise of Him who called us from darkness into His marvelous light and then speak lies, blasphemy, vulgarity, anger, and hate.  It is lamentable, to be sure, but hardly a surprise.  St. Paul insists that we are so sinful we cannot make ourselves do good any more than we can keep ourselves from doing evil.

Yet at the same time, St. Paul urges us to be renewed by the transformation of our minds under the Spirit's power and to live sober, holy, upright, and self-controlled lives.  The will has been reborn, though weak and frail.  The will is not without the resources and power of the Spirit to reign in sinful desire that threatens us.  We are, as St. Paul says, to take captive every thought and, by the Spirit's power, make it obedience to Christ.

We cannot stop the thoughts that come into our heads but we don't have to serve them tea. -- Rumi

We cannot stop the sinful thoughts that come into our minds but we do not have honor them or live in obedience to them or let them live without challenge inside of us.  Lent if it is anything is a time of re-dedication to the things of God, to the renewal of the thoughts of our hearts and mind, directed by our direction toward the cross and our orientation to the profound mystery of Christ our Savior in suffering, in death, and in resurrection.

I would simply suggest that our thoughts are not without a source.  What we read and watch, what we surround ourselves with, who we hang around with -- these all influence our thoughts.  One cannot hang around the kitchen long without developing a hunger.  So even before the thoughts become words, the words become actions, the actions become habits, the habits define our character, and that character determines our future, pay attention to that influences those thoughts.  Lent is all about paying attention to this.  For surely cannot exercise any self-control without a steadfast diet of the Word of the Lord.

Lent is done.  Holy Week, itself a mini-season of the church year, is complete.  Easter continues forty days.  You cannot stop the thoughts that come into your heads but you do not have to set a place for them at the table and engage in conversation with them.  If we carry nothing more than this from our time of Lent, then let us at least carry this.  The focus of the Christian upon the Word and works of the Lord cannot be a seasonal activity.  It is the shape and focus of our daily lives and piety.

1 comment:

John Joseph Flanagan said...

Yes, indeed, we must guard our hearts, our thoughts, our words. In this the Bible is quite clear.