Negative recurring thoughts and focusing on unmet expectations can set longterm mindsets in place that steal our joy, cause stress and fuel doubt. It’s in these times you must be the most diligent to look for ways to practice internal self-care which includes nurturing a renewed mind. I started to learn this lesson from a pair of squeaky shoes.
It was a moment when I felt self-conscious, but had to keep on walking. The problem was that my walking was the thing causing my embarrassment. I’m always around noise when I’m wearing my tennis shoes. But this time not long after I walked into a silent building, when the doors closed off the sounds from the noisy street, I began to hear it. With every step…left, right…left, right, left. Squeak, squeak…squeak, squeak, squeak. It was similar to the type of sound you hear when you walk on a hard floor with wet tennis shoes, except mine weren’t wet at all. I tried to adjust my feet, but it didn’t help. With each step through those extra quiet halls, the rubber soles sent Morse Code messages, saying, “I am shoe, hear me squeak!” to those I passed to the left and the right.
In this moment, the Lord reminded me of another time when I noticed squeaking I had never heard before in the midst of my noisy life. It had been a “squeaking” inside of me! My husband had changed jobs and we had just moved to a new state, leaving the comfort and familiarity of my friends and surroundings behind.
I was alone at home all day with a toddler and his new baby brother, trying to figure out chores, errands, grocery shopping and cooking dinner with two children now, and having no local friends for support–which is not a good place to be in when you’re already an introvert and fairly shy. We were still searching for a church home, so there wasn’t anyone to connect with at all.
The good noise of my full life in my prior home and town was all gone—and that life replaced by the silent, echoing halls of this new strange place full of strangers. During that time, with my husband working a job that kept him unavailable by phone most of the day, there really was no one to turn to when I was feeling down or pressured while I struggled by myself.
I finally got to a point where I was allowing (yes, I said allowing) and enabling (yes, I said enabling) myself to be constantly attacked by not only the enemy, but my own self, with the “squeaking” of negative thoughts, unrealistic expectations, feelings of inadequacy and discontentment, and a desire to just press a “make life easy” button. And everyone around me could hear it–and feel it too.
It was at that moment of seemingly unbearable internal affliction that I gave up trying to fix anything in my own strength. I was silenced in my mind because I had no solutions. And in that silence, I heard God speaking. He had been whispering all along…trying to help me get a renewed mind.
In 1 Kings 19:11-13 (NIV) the Lord told Elijah to stand on the mountain and await the Lord’s passing by. “Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave…” This is when the voice of the Lord spoke to him.
The Lord taught me that I had been only paying attention to the internal and external winds, earthquakes and fires in my own life trying to fix things. But until I calmed myself, I had not heard the whisper. Through prayer, self-examination, scripture meditation, examining my thought life and opening my heart to friends from my prior town for support and accountability (thank you Lord for unlimited long distance!), the Lord (yes, I said the Lord, not I) released me from my self-made prison. He exposed the lies in my mind put there by my own thinking patterns, the expectations of society and other people, as well as the enemy. I was in the process of mind renewal.
I learned that my rescue did not lie in my husband coming home early or my friends calling to offer encouragement, me filling time with fun distractions, or constantly coming up with new strategies. When those things would end, so would my peace. Yes, those things are helpful, but not the source of a true and lasting solution or a renewed mind.
I learned so much about the care and promises of God during that time–more than I ever would have had I not gone through my own silent, dark halls and heard the squeaking of the rusty thoughts and attitudes inside. He and he alone was the provider of peace, joy, contentment and mind renewal. Oh how “It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.” (Psalm 119:71 NIV)
So now I don’t only listen for my shoes, but I also listen to my mind and take intentional steps to keep a renewed mind so that when I start hearing hindering squeaks from the right and left, I look for God’s voice of truth to guide me in managing negative thoughts, for His word says that as I walk “to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”” (Isaiah 30:21 NIV)
Self-Care Tips for a Renewed Mind
A critical part of self-care is related to mental and emotional well-being. Noticing patterns of thinking that create negative emotions and behavior, as well as unhealthy physical symptoms, can help us to know in what areas we need positive support relationships, external resources and especially to bring before the Lord for healing our spirit, heart, mind and body.
Not conforming to the pattern of this world can also mean no longer conforming to the patterns you have built up inside of yourself in responding to the people and world around you, as well as your own expectations. Being honest with yourself about what you need and taking steps to meet those needs as well as you can will begin to make a difference in your life. You may have to do the inner work to take captive thoughts that are keeping you shackled to old habits that hinder your peace and progress.
To care for your inner self, you must decrease stress that affects you both inside and out. It’s important to set more boundaries where needed, change expectations of others and situations to be more realistic, and avoid or manage interactions that draw you into stressful and unproductive conflict.
God can give us a renewed mind and change us to see ourselves, others and situations through His eyes so we can respond differently, knowing what to say and do versus what to leave in His wise and loving care to handle for us in His time as we rest in Him.
The most important part of self-care on the inside is bringing your challenges to the Lord. No matter how far along you are in your path of purpose, everything and anything can change in time. The only steady source in your life will be the Lord. So make seeking the Father, Son and Holy Spirit your foundation and first priority as you pursue purpose.
Christian Life Purpose Coaching Call to Action
- Think of a recurring negative emotion. What is the typical situation that causes your reaction? What are the exact thought statements that are “squeaking” in your head when you are feeling this way? What do you find to be true vs. false about what you are thinking? How can you partner with God (yes, I said God, not you alone) to start mind renewal?
- The next time you are in a situation where your emotions are about to cause a negative or ungodly reaction either internally or externally, stop in that moment before saying or doing anything or thinking any further. Write down what you are telling yourself about the situation, about another person, or even about yourself. Keep a log of these reactions, negative thoughts and limiting beliefs for several days. Look for patterns. Find God’s truth and promises about the situation. Write down verses directly related to your need or challenge. Ask God to help you to apply them to your life and start to renew your mind.
- Romans 12:2 (NIV) teaches, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Think of practical and simple steps you can take daily to begin to renew your mind. If you feel it is too big to go it alone, ask a family member, friend, or Christian Life Coach to help you to move forward in this area. “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13 NIV)