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The Mind's Role in Identity Formation




You may know the popular scripture in Jeremiah 1:5 where the Lord gave Jeremiah a message saying: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…” Well, in this exchange, Jeremiah responded to God, telling him about why he thought he was not equipped to do what God called him to do. His excuse: “I’m too young.” What do you think when you hear that justification for Jeremiah not doing what God asked him to do? That excuse demonstrates Jeremiah’s insecurity with his identity and his ability to do what he was called to do at that time. The scriptures don’t hesitate to show us that we were created with purpose before we were even born. But, the greatest part about it is, because we were made in God's image, we already have every little thing we need to accomplish just what we were called to do, and to live a life of peace despite our circumstances. We just have to believe that.


Here’s a point to ponder: Because our true identity is connected to our understanding of God's character and HIS purpose, the life we were created to live can only be attained through our developing relationship with HIM. If we would just receive the gift of our unique identity, there are great and precious promises in store for us. Promises that equip us for a life we would actually love, and that would bring glory to God. But, the way you see yourself, the world, and God, will determine your capacity to live that life, authentically. Because your mind, if not subjected to the Holy Spirit, will derail you.


I like how Joyce Meyers puts it in her book Battlefield of the Mind: Winning the Battle in Your Mind. Joyce says, “Where the mind goes, the man follows.” And, oh how true that is! Joyce Myers coined this phrase but it is actually scripturally based. It comes from Proverbs 23:7, which states: “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”


One of the most fascinating things I’ve learned about is the human brain. As a professional in the human services field, I had the opportunity to build a parent education program within a large public agency along-side some really smart and passionate colleagues. As I researched other programs across the country, my team and I began to lay the basic building blocks for a strong, sustainable parent education program. We researched numerous curricula and coaching programs but never found anything that offered the flexibility we needed to meet parents where they were. What we decided at that time was to build the important components that would need to be included in the program from the ground up. But get this: we found that the cornerstone of an effective and sustainable parenting program is the foundational teaching of human growth and development. And not just the knowledge of important milestones in the life of a growing child, no. Even more critical is the understanding of how children’s brains develop, especially after experiencing trauma. Because having this knowledge helps parents better understand their child’s behaviors and capacity.


Over the years, I have also admired Dr. Caroline Leaf, Author of “Switch On Your Brain,” for her ability to so brilliantly relate science to the sovereignty of God. In her book she wrote: “As we think, we change the physical nature of our brain. As we consciously direct our thinking, we can wire out toxic patterns of thinking and replace them with healthy thoughts.” How about that? Science, once again showing God's sovereignty and truth. Science telling us that we have the capacity to choose our thoughts and own our thought-life. This is big. But what does it all mean for us? How does this help us get better, do better, be better?


Get this: I want you and me to thrive. That usually means that something in our lives may need to change. If you’re separated or getting a divorce, something needs to change. If you’re co-parenting or battling for custody, something needs to change. If you’re fighting with a family member over health or financial related matters, something needs to change. But changing our behavior to accomplish whatever goal we are striving for is not good enough, as it is only a temporary solution if not accompanied by a change mindset. However, embracing a changed mind will not just happen because we want it to.


 

If we want positive change, we must take our thoughts captive.

 

This means that we pause and think about what we're thinking about. We have to bring our honest thoughts to light – good, bad or indifferent. Then, decide whether they are rooted in truth or deception. If these thoughts are not founded in truth or good, then we begin the process of uprooting negative and destructive thoughts and replacing them with more productive ones. How can we do that? I’m glad you asked.


Here are just five ways you can choose today to take your thoughts captive:

  1. Pray and ask God to reveal those thought patterns that are destructive to you. Some may not be as obvious as you think.

  2. Deny destructive thoughts and confess spiritual truths. You can do this by reading the scriptures regularly, asking God to replace those destructive thoughts with his truth. A good place to start reading is in the book of Ephesians. Anytime you hear those thoughts that you identified as destructive, just say “Stop” out loud. Remind yourself that the thought or thoughts you just had were not rooted in truth. Then confess the truth over and over again if you need to. You may feel silly at first, but your brain will be glad you did.

  3. Once you’ve confessed your truths, with faith, change your behavior to match your confession. Don’t miss the “with faith” part. Sometimes, we don’t “feel” like anything has changed and may find it hard to “make” ourselves do something that feels awkward. Take courage. Remember: the more pressure, the greater the promise. Keep your eyes on the prize.

  4. Guard your five senses against the attacks of the enemy. This is important. As hard as you may work toward changing your mindset, your environment can greatly impact your ability to sustain those changes. You may find that watching television, listening to music, spending a lot of time with some family members or friends, or just being in toxic environments that are not conducive to your growth may cause you to become less convicted of your need to change or even intentionally destroy what you are trying to build. So, be careful about who you allow in and where you hang out.

  5. Lastly, surround yourself with other people who will keep you encouraged. Again, your environment (including the people you’re around) will have a great impact on you, so choose well.

We must regard our spiritual and mental health with the utmost importance. This is how we begin to receive the truth in which God shaped and molded us… our identity, our purpose. This is how we begin to live with HOPE.

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