Hall of Mirrors

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding
-Proverbs 3:5 (NIV)

Lean not. Understanding simply cannot support your weight all by itself.

I know what it’s like to have my mind in a place of mastery over my life. For a long time I was the sort of Christian who mostly operated from my intellect. A few years after passionately falling in love with Jesus I settled into a place of mostly heady Christian practice. After a while I just wasn’t really aware of the Holy Spirit or of my own heart. For me it was a frustrating, lonely existence. Probably the only thing my mind made me sure of in that season was the endless possibility that I was being deceived, no matter what I believed, or tried to. This resulted in my inability to fully believe anything at all. I leaned on my own understanding and it gave way. To be honest it felt much worse than that. Not so much like stepping on a rotten wooden stair that gave way beneath me, and more like stepping in a snare that tightened on my leg. The enemy of my soul was definitely leveraging the way I leaned so heavily on my mind.

Around that time, I visited an art museum and went into an exhibit that consisted of an enclosure of nothing but mirrors. Picture it: a hall you can walk into that consists of mirror walls, mirror floors, and mirror ceilings. It seemed wonderful at first. The enclosure was not ten feet tall but seemed vast inside—infinite even—and many of us regard our minds that way. But as I spent more time inside it I began to feel sick. The hall of mirrors was such a metaphor for where I lived. It seemed to have a lot of depth at first, but ultimately did nothing but show me the small space that I occupied over and over and over and over and over and…

What a cramped bother for my spirit.

However, the proverb doesn’t say understand not. It says lean not. Understanding isn’t bad, it’s good! The mind isn’t bad, it’s good—when it is not allowed an improper mastery but is submitted to the Spirit.

The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. – Romans 6:8 (NIV)

In it’s right place the mind is wonderful. One of the things I love most in life is to assess things and line them up in their proper order, like Adam probably did when he named the animals and like my son does with his toy cars. To see things from new perspectives. To use my mind to explore parables and metaphors and analogies, as I am right now and in fact and it is a great joy for me.

These activities all start with the Spirit though. They begin with God, not with my mind. Our minds ought to be students of the Spirit. Then they will be such an enjoyable, peaceful part of who we are.

The mind is a terrible master, but a wonderful student.

January 30, 2013