I admit it – at times I exhibit juvenile behaviour! Christmas has always been a favourite time of mine to relax, step out of the box and do some really silly things. As a minister, you have to be pretty grown up and pretty responsible most of the time, so on Christmas day, for many a year at around 2.30 in the afternoon, myself and my former associate pastor used to start giggling like two naughty school boys as we organised ourselves to make silly calls to members of the congregations who could possibly take a joke!
We were Indian call centre operators, waiters from Indian curry houses, Bank managers and people in need just when they were settling into a cosy corner of their lounge settee stuffed full of Christmas pudding! We meant no offense and no one was deeply disturbed. It did however allow our ADD some much needed attention and the steam that had built up over an intense year of pastoring was about to be well and truly released! Sometimes one just has to revert to being a boy once in a while!
Being in possession of the gift of ADHA (A for asset), as well as being three quarters melancholic and one quarter choleric, I find that playing games isn’t just the exclusive domain of the outside world of pranking around! My mind is always at play. It plays with statistics, faces, words, shadows and anything else it can capture for its own amusement! It just loves TV blunders, finds backgrounds more interesting than foregrounds, and loves disagreeing with Huw Edwards from the BBC news desk.
For those with overactive minds, I’ve worked out that there are three kinds of games that the mind can play. They range from innocent sparing through to deviously demonic inspirations. Through my own personal experience, I’d like to tell you how I’ve been able to braintame and sustain both mental health and partial sanity!
1. Stupid Games
When I’m working from my desk at home, I always have to have my mobile plugged in and in its proper place. I imagine the battery slowly draining when left unplugged and this disturbs me! I always use a bic ball point blue ink – never a black one! Yuk! I always sleep in a white T-shirt and can’t stand anything that rattles in my car. I find it really difficult to focus on the television if someone is crunching, chewing, or slurping and I like to brush my teeth after a snack at home, again to help me focus!
When you hear my second and third points, you’ll see that these things are all just silly things, not mad things! They’re an outcome of a brain that’s just inventing things to keep itself mildly amused.
I’ve discovered that everyone’s got own pet routines, hobby horses and little quirks! As long as they don’t dominate, and as long as they’re trivial, they’re OK to accept and live with! Sure, I was a little over the top at 16 years of age, rewriting all of my school notes in four different coloured pens! That’s border-line obsessive! These other things I’ve mentioned are just as weird but are more dumb than destructive.
The way to make sure that it all stays that way is to not let them take you over! I force myself into silence when someone’s chewing in an otherwise quiet room and sometimes cover part of my vision so I can’t see them! To walk out is to be dominated by stupidity – and that’s not good. To stop work because I can’t find a blue ballpoint pen is to become obsessed by silliness.
What I’ve found is that every car I’ve driven has a squeak that is impossible to fix even by forcing the dashboard into some new form of compliance. Someone wisely called the residing rattles and quirks of a car – after you’ve tried your best to fix them – the ‘personality’ of the car! To accept imperfection for a perfectionist by nature and gifting is to master the art of true perfection. (I keep telling myself.)
2. Superstitious Games
I once back tracked a hundred yards to retrace my steps after walking on some cracks in the pavement! I’d attached it to the superstition of trying to avoid bad luck and attempting to maintain good luck! I’ve known people who will only sip their coffee eight times – not seven and not nine – but eight times only (or multiples of eight!). Many people carry with them lucky charms, lucky numbers and just hate it when a totally black cat races across their path. Luck and bad luck play a huge part in many of the world’s religions. The fear of ‘being cursed’ is a source of depression, obsession and major personality recession! The best way that I’ve found to counteract such thinking is by counteracting evil with good. The Bible tells us to, ‘… not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.’ (Romans 12 v 21)
To do the opposite to what the voice of fear is saying is to overcome fear with faith! If thirteen is your unlucky number, stick with thirteen. If eight is your lucky number, go with nine or seven. If walking under ladders is bad, do it again in the name of faith in a God who watches over your life like a doting father watches over his kids. Don’t just have faith but prove faith by applying it in the direction of fear.
3. Seriously Sinister Games!
The third batch of voices that crowd our minds form trains of thought that take us to places we never planned to live in – Cities of Depression, Anxiety, Rejection and for some… Addiction. When the young seventeen year old David arrived at his battlefield of destiny when he would soon challenge a giant called Goliath and win, he was greeted by his brother Eliab with the words ‘Why have you come down here?’ (1 Samuel 17 v 28). ‘What are you doing?’ here is a question posed by Satan to all who are on a collision course with destiny. It’s joined by ‘no one wants you’, ‘you’re not needed’ and grows into ‘everyone hates you’. They are all thoughts that are dripping with rejection.
When I was at school, I used to watch every school bus that drove past to see if anyone would continue to look at me out of the back window. On many occasions they did and I felt that they were saying to themselves, ‘how ugly can a guy be and still be in public.’ I wore my jumper through a series of intensely hot Australian summers for fear of rejection over being incredibly gaunt and stick like in appearance.
After David’s brother comes the voice of Saul the King who said to him, ‘you are only a boy and Goliath has been fighting men from his youth’. (1 Samuel 17 v 33). ‘You’ve got no talent, no personality and no charisma – not like everyone else around about you’ is the voice of intimidation that is another satanic train of though that is guaranteed to lead to Cities of the Darkened Mind.
I became so obsessed with thought of rejection that the only momentary break that I would have at high school was when I went to the toilet. Even then I would break down under their curse.
Amongst it all, I became super self-conscious of my body to the degree of counting the hairs that were falling out of my head each day. My hair was thinning due to anxiety and my daily hair count wasn’t helping! I became so obsessively conscious of the way I walked (since they told me I walked like a gay person), I would practice walking without bouncing by walking alongside fences, which I’m sure made me look even more gay.
The sinister games continued to grow with me feeling, for a year or so, like I had something strapped to my back. These over-machinations then moved to different parts of my body where I could not think of anything else but that body part being pointed out. Madness was beckoning!
My breakthrough came through the combination punch of the Word of God and the Power of Ignorance! In the midst of my oppression, I was reminded of the words Jahaziel said to Jehosophat upon the approach of a vast army of oppressors. ‘This is what the Lord says to you: “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.”‘ (2 Chronicles 20 v 15).
The battle belonged to the Lord. It was His battle not mine. It was His power, not mine. I decided to stop fighting the thoughts! I even stopped ‘praying over’ them. I began to ignore them! It was hard to break both the obsession and the accompanying obsession with the obsession, but I coined the phrase, ‘So what,’ every time the devil taunted me with his lies and machinations.
I began to be set free. Ignorance eventually became bliss. Just as simply looking at a gang of teenagers on the corner of an inner-city street can empower them to the point of danger, a simple of focussing on all that the enemy says about you can do the same. That’s why he wants to verbally express an inward questioning. ‘Does my bum look big in this?’ actually accentuates the bum! Sure, it’s imaginary, but it forces an eventual change of outfit! On a more serious level, carrying a small mirror around to check my teeth every half an hour as a teenager fed a problem, not reduced it.
To refuse to answer the taunts of the enemy’s voices within me was the beginning of great success! It’s true also for you. If you’ve read this far, you probably could do with knowing that some battles are for fighting, many are for ignoring.
The classic movie ‘A Beautiful Mind’ which starred Russell Crowe demonstrates my revelation! It’s based upon the true story of John Forbes Nash Jr., who was a brilliant mathematician, yet plagued by imaginary people and imaginary voices. They provoked him even to the point of near suicide and nearly killing his family. In his later years, he was awarded the Nobel prize for endeavours in the field of physics. Upon receiving the prize, a friend came up to him and expressed both congratulations and relief that he was now freed from his inner torment. The camera pulled back to reveal the continued existence of his imaginary stalkers. Looking straight at them, he replied, ‘They’re still there. I’ve just chosen to ignore them.’
Your life isn’t meant to be driven by emotion or imagination but by the power of your Will and His Holy Spirit! The voices might scream at you like a baby looking to be picked up – to not respond is to give the signal you’re not playing anymore! If you want to win any argument, just walk away! It’s a master stroke that immediately begins to silence both wicked schemes and sinister arguments. If you’re been dominated by huge thoughts like ‘You’re going to die,’ ‘You’re not saved,’ ‘You’re in a losing battle,’ and ‘You’re good for nothing’ – it’s time to say, ‘So what?’ and continue to do what you would have done if the thoughts had never come along.
I can’t think of another category of brain games that could possibly beset you. Remember – the stupid ones are just stupid, the superstitious ones are for fighting for the opposite spirit of faith, and the sinister ones are for ignoring! Why? Because ‘the battle belongs to the Lord!’ Ignorance is bliss. You’d better believe it!
‘God died not to give you a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1 v 7).