Get Out Of Your Head

I remember back when I was a teenager and just starting to like the idea of dating.  I can remember working up the nerve to call a girl or to ask her out in person.  I was not confident in this area.  What I would do of course made it worse.  I would speculate in my head over and over again about how the conversation would go.  Then after a couple of almost dials, I’d let if fly.  You know what never happened one single time?  It never went the way I made it up in my head.  Never.  Not once.

I’ve spent a lot of time in my head and what I’ve named “the pretend“.  It started when I was a kid as imagination.  And there is nothing wrong with imagination.  But as we grow older we have to move into something very important.  We have to live in the real.

Here’s the thing, the key to health in anything, be it business, ministry or our personal life is to define the reality and then deal with it.  It’s one of the key’s to mental and emotional health.

But there are all sorts of ways to avoid reality.  We can choose to hide.  We can do this by “escaping”.  We might escape to fantasy, video games, alcohol, drugs, porn, comics, you name it.  Or we might just spend all of our time alone, consciously or subconsciously avoiding real community.  Some of us have more conversations with people in our heads than actual conversations with people.

I remember this man I knew who was always mumbling.  What I realized later was that he was carrying on a conversation in his head.  If you saw it on the street you would think that guy was crazy.  But if we do it all the time in our head silently are we crazy?

It’s not healthy.  The worst thing about this “pretend world” is that it strains our minds.  And I remind you that it is absolutely not real.

As a single person in today’s world living in our own head is a real trap.  Married people can fall into it as well to be sure, but when half of unmarried people live alone there is often no one around to physically engage.  Many of our jobs have us working basically alone.  We drive in our car alone.  We go home alone.  We eat alone.  Go to bed alone, wake up alone and do it again.

There’s a reason that in prison the worst place to be is solitary confinement.  Even if we are called to celibacy, we are not called to that.

I struggled with this immensely at different times in my life. I would have conversations with people in my mind over and over again.  This was especially true when I was mad, or when I if I need to have a conversation with a girl I liked.  I would turn the conversation over and over again in my mind.  This sort of process is unhealthy.  It took me more into my own head, more isolation and frankly a lot more stress.  The reality is, from a practical standpoint, never one time did a conversation go the way I thought it would.  Not One Time.  

I remember when God started showing me it was wrong.  I can still remember the first time I prayed against it.  I was driving and getting onto a highway and I literally just prayed, “God, clear my head.  Help me to live only in the real, no pretend.”  I kid you not it was like BOOM and there was silence . . . and peace.  After that, God began to walk me out of it.

We have to submit our minds, imaginations and speculations to God.  It’s a fight but I’m telling you it’s worth it.  We need to engage God and we need to engage others.  We need to shut off the computer, the ipod, the car radio, all of it, and engage the real.  It’s not that God doesn’t want us to ever day dream or use our imagination.  But just like the rest of our life, it needs to be submitted to Him, and the incessant analyzing, conjuring, and practice conversations that won’t happen are not a part of that.  We need to take every thought captive.

The more we let the pretend (in all it’s forms) run rampant, the more it will wear us down and isolate us.  This is bad for our work, play, ministry and dating life.  You will not be who you need to be in any of those areas if you don’t pull this area under control.

So how do we fight this.  Here are some practical things:

  • Pray – this seems so basic, but I mean this in two ways.
    • Pray against this specifically.  Submit your imagination and speculation to the Lord.  Ask Him to fill your mind with peace
    • Pray about the things that you are over thinking.  Instead of speculating and imagining things, lift them up.  Don’t practice the conversation, pray about it.
  • Instead of practicing the conversation or confrontation, write down the main things you want to make sure get said and then move beyond it
  • For me, I needed to turn off the fast music when I drove.  Anything that sends you into the pretend, turn it off.  I actually do better with talk radio – because I have to engage and listen.
  • If you work alone, go to where you have to interact with people.
  • Have people in your life.  You must have community and people to engage with.  Everywhere
  • I would encourage you to not live alone.  I know some people love it.  I think it’s dangerous on many levels.

Do you have more conversations with real people or in your head?  When do you fall into the pretend?  What thoughts are not submitted to God?

Interpretation Is Everything

In the movie “A Perfect World” Kevin Costner plays a criminal, Butch, who has escaped from prison.  He takes a young boy, Phillip, hostage.  As times goes on, they become drawn to each other.  Phillip has never really had a dad and Butch begins to teach him all sorts of things about “manhood”.  In one scene Butch has just gotten Phillip some new clothes.  They’re in the car and on the run, so he tells him to go ahead and change.

Phillip is hesitant (I get that the whole premise of boy being kidnapped is bad, but hang with me anyway).  Butch basically says, “Is it because you’re embarrassed I might see your pecker?”  Phillip says, “It’s . . . puny ”  Butch says, “Let me see, I’ll shoot you straight.” Butch looks over with a quick glance and says, “Hell no Phillip, good size for a boy your age.”  Phillip smiles.

Who interprets your life for you?

When I was in third grade I got picked on by some sixth graders. They threatened me on the way home from school.  For the first time in my life as a kid, I was scared of injury from another person.  I can still see that kids fist in my face.

In my third grade mind I was now weak.  Once you have an interpretation other events begin to get interpreted the same way.  In fifth grade a peer straight up punched me in the face as hard as he could.  I didn’t even fall, but I didn’t fight back. I could have thought, “I just took that kids best punch and I’m not hurt – I’m tough.” Instead, I took it as another confirmation that I was weak.

All sorts of things are constantly happening to us and around us.  Each time, we interpret what is happening and make agreements about what it means. Others help us interpret, starting with our parents when we are little.  If you’re a parent understand this: One of the most important things you will ever do is speak interpretation into your kids lives. How you react, what you say and what they hear from you when something happens to them forms the base interpretation for their lives.  No pressure. . .

We all deal with this of course, married, single or otherwise.  But I think this affects the single person in an extremely significant way because many of us are asking, “why am I single?”

There are all sorts of people helping us interpret that answer.

There’s hollywood.  You’re single because you are not a 10 or don’t have a flashy enough car or job.  If I were 007 I’ve had all the ladies.  I laugh as I write that but seriously, for a lot of us, the media is one of our main interpreters.  We’ve grown up on it and the message is obvious.  You’re not cool enough, hot enough, or rich enough to be loved back by another person.

There’s our well meaning friends.  Mostly they tell us that there is nothing wrong with us, which doesn’t seem right, but we hope it’s true.

Then there is the Church.  Usually this interpretation hinges on the fact that God has a plan – meaning that He has a Christian Soulmate for me.  It them moves in one of a couple directions.  Either I need to become better so that God will reward me with a spouse (this could mean date better, be content, wait on God, etc) or I don’t need to do anything because God’s perfect spouse for me just isn’t ready or the timing must not be right.

The worst part is that most of us, myself included for many years, have some sort of sick twisted combination of all of the above going on in our head.  I’m not good looking enough (insert strong enough, rich enough, spiritual enough. . . etc), and/or there’s nothing wrong with me (men/women just suck), and/or God will bring me the perfect person but for right now (and apparently for the last decade) He’s just holding out on me.

How you interpret your singleness affects your view of God and vice versa.  It affects how you see yourself and therefore how you relate to others.  If we interpret it wrong, then we’re going to have a hard time figuring out our calling (celibacy or marriage), let alone our pursuing it.

What we need first though is God’s interpretation of who we are as a person.  We need to grow in our identity in Christ.  If we are going to do that, we will need to reinterpret a lot of things and we’ll need to let some people in to help.

Most of us are afraid of the truth, but in reality most of the time the truth is better than how we have interpreted. Either way we need the real actual interpretation in order to have a chance at true spiritual health.

Who interprets your life?  What is your interpretation of your singleness?  How sure are you of that interpretation?  Who are you helping with their interpretation?