I heard a podcast* on my travels about what is happening when our mind wanders. I found it fascinating because of the new things I heard. They’re probably not new to anyone who knows about minds and brains but they were new to me. I heard about how we think about ourselves; how we understand what other people are thinking, believing, and experiencing; and about our thinking about the future – often rehearsing future possible scenarios. I chuckled when I heard that mind-wandering is notorious for having a mind of its own! But what particularly got my attention were ruminations – the mind-wandering we don’t want to do because it is ‘narrow’ and often focused on our anxieties – which affects our mood.
Just as you can’t tell someone to stop thinking so to say to someone stop being anxious rarely ‘works’. Anxiety or other ruminations keep the thoughts on specific things or keep returning to things about which they / we might be beating ourselves up about. People have told me that they try and not worry or ruminate (nobody has said that term to me) but the thoughts keep coming back and they are being confined and constrained again in their minds and their mood.
Psychology has discovered through experiments that if one broadens one’s thinking this affects – lifts – one’s mood. It was like a game I used to play in class to stimulate creative thinking – word-association-football – where one word stimulates another and before long you are ‘far away’ from the first word. Of course, the podcast had many caveats about not taking a simplistic approach here and thinking broad thinking will automatically change your mood and probably other things but my mind was wandering!
Worry and anxiety and fear constrict us in many ways – keep us shut in in all sort of ways. They narrow our options to the point when they imprison us because that is all we seem to thinking about or focusing on. But Jesus and his death and resurrection place people into a broad context. If you feel trapped in your head then you need now be alone because Jesus can be with you. Same if you’re stuck in your room or home, Jesus can be with you. If you are imprisoned by shame or guilt, you may hide from others but Jesus still comes close and he doesn’t turn his nose up at us but comes to us with care and compassion. With Jesus there is always something ‘beyond’ with him which comes from his resurrection. He offers the broadest perspective we can have – a perspective beyond death – where we can be (“In my Father’s house are many rooms …” (John 14:1)). Jesus gives to us a broader context even if our congregation is tiny because we are one with the ‘holy, apostolic, and catholic [universal] church’. No matter what we might go through, Jesus can set it in a broader context, because he is risen from the dead. And that is why Peter wrote, “[cast] all your anxieties on [God] because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). And Jesus doesn’t mind if we do that hourly!
With Jesus, we can have a broad perspective on things – especially when we know that Jesus is for us, not against us!
* All in the Mind (ABC) What happens when our minds wander?