There are certain loops that get stuck in my head on repeat. Usually, they involve some variation of “I should” or “I should have.” Usually, these thoughts involve the past or the future – what I should or should not have done in the past, or what I think I am supposed to do in the future (which let’s be honest…probably won’t actually happen even if I beat myself up about it). Many of us have loops of thoughts, and loops can look like all kinds of things — repeating negative and hurtful thoughts about ourselves and about others. What I find is that these thoughts make me very very tired. And they can get my present self stuck, immovable.
In the letter to the Philippians, Paul writes: From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise. Practice these things: whatever you learned, received, heard, or saw in us. The God of peace will be with you. (4:8-9, CEB)
For the longest time, I have thought that this just sounds more exhausting. How is it possible to focus one’s thoughts in this way? I’ve got loops! They play on repeat!
But, the Lord is near, Paul says in the verses before. And the God of peace will be with you. The God who is true, and holy, and just, and pure, and lovely, and worthy of praise. When I find myself stuck in thoughts of “I should” or “I should have” (or whatever version your loop is), I can hit pause as I turn to God. The Lord is near. The God of peace is with you and me. And it doesn’t matter how many times I must turn to God in order to refocus my thoughts – it doesn’t matter how many times!! It might be 30 seconds later. Each time I turn to what is true, holy, just, pure, lovely, and worthy of praise, I am practicing what I have learned, received, heard or seen in others.
During the month of November, we are often encouraged to give thanks and to practice gratitude. I invite you to make this a practice of refocusing your thoughts. Keep it simple! “I give thanks today for…” or “Thank you God for…” or notice what is true, holy, just, pure, lovely and worthy of praise at that moment or on that day. And may you use it when the loop begins to play. Hit the pause button. Turn to the Lord who is near.