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Dave Brisbin

Stake in the Ground

As good Westerners, we approach spiritual formation with our minds. We see faith as correct thinking, a mental agreement with correct thoughts about God, theology, doctrine. But over the years, I’ve learned not to trust thoughts in my head.

I know at best, they are incomplete, and inaccurate more often than I’d care to admit. But this is no longer cause for concern: I don’t expect my thoughts to be complete and accurate anymore. And I don’t need them to be.

When it comes to spiritual issues that by definition stand outside anything that finite thought and language can express, everyone’s thoughts are incomplete and inaccurate. Book of Proverbs tells us not to lean on our own understanding—to trust God with all our hearts, yet Paul tell us to become transformed by the renewing of our minds…so are we back to correct thoughts?

If we’re ever to understand the Way of spiritual transformation that Jesus taught, we need to come to terms with how our minds are renewed. When we lay Paul’s teaching in Romans and Philippians side by side, we see that renewing our minds is connected to presenting our bodies as living sacrifices, which he spends fifteen verses illustrating as life lived in intimate relationship.

We accomplish this by forgetting all that lies behind: lessons learned in pain that only create more pain now, accepted beliefs that only cause more division and dysfunction now. Focusing instead on whatever is lovely and pure, honorable and good in this present moment, heals anxiety with gratitude for God’s presence.

Paul is not talking about correcting our thoughts, but that we know our thoughts are correct by their effect on every moment of our lives.

There comes a time when there are no more thoughts to think, no new ideas to discover—only the infinitely varied expression of the truth found in our daily lives. To drive our stake in the ground there, at the point of the Father’s love, is the renewal and transformation we seek.

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