Introductory Note:

Our new Director of Communications and Special Projects, Brian Morykon, joins us today with an always-timely piece from the vault. Is our identity just the accumulation of our thoughts, feelings, personality traits, and experiences? Or is it something else? Brian shares how he is finding his spirit renewed by “unmasking the joy-robbing thief” of unhelpful mental habits and claiming his true identity as Abba’s child.

Renovaré Team

What hap­pens when you find out that the life you’ve lived could have been bet­ter — much bet­ter? That’s what a 60-year-old Japan­ese truck dri­ver had to grap­ple with when he dis­cov­ered he was switched at birth after being born to a rich family.

Some­times you get hand­ed a key with­out know­ing what door it goes to. That’s what this recent NPR sto­ry was for me. It gripped me, it felt sig­nif­i­cant. But I wasn’t sure why.

Then it hit me. I am the old truck dri­ver. I’m a prince con­vinced he’s a pau­per. To explain let me share a lit­tle bit of my story.

A deep sad­ness has haunt­ed me for some time. Melan­choly and intro­spec­tion in many ways felt like my iden­ti­ty, part of my DNA. If they were lost, I rea­soned, I’d also lose the pos­i­tive sides of those neg­a­tive traits: crit­i­cal rea­son­ing, deep reflec­tion, and self-cor­rec­tive think­ing that leads to bet­ter work and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. And so I sim­ply lived with — even embraced — the cloud that hung over me. If there’s no cloud, there’s no rain. If there’s no rain, there’s no growth. So I thought.

It turns out there was no rain in that cloud. The cloud was smoke, smoke from a wild­fire of habit. And the habit was so sub­tle it seems coun­ter­in­tu­itive to ques­tion it: I believed my thoughts are true. I believed my thoughts are me.

For exam­ple, a thought like this comes along. 

Your work is mean­ing­less, like a drop of water in the ocean of the world. God wish­es you were doing some­thing more with your life. 

The thought may not come in so many words. It may come in more spir­i­tu­al lan­guage that lever­ages guilt in an attempt to make me try hard­er. There may be no words at all. In fact it may come and go so fast that all that is felt is the ran­sacked mind it leaves behind. But slow down that tape and the thought can always be spot­ted. Even now in writ­ing out one of those thoughts it feels as if I’ve caught and unmasked a joy-rob­bing thief.

A wind of truth is blow­ing that smoke out of my heart: I am not my thoughts. I am not my sin. I have respon­si­bil­i­ty, it’s true. Sin crouch­es at my door and I can open the door or not. But even in a moment of weak­ness if I open that door, sin is still not who I am. Allow­ing this truth to sink in has been one of the most impor­tant steps in embrac­ing my adop­tion as a child of God.

Paul talks about this in the often quot­ed Romans 7. It is no longer I who do it but sin that dwells in me.”

Peo­ple use this as an excuse to live a defeat­ed life. 

Well, there it is right there in the Bible, even Saint Paul couldn’t do what he want­ed to do. I guess we nev­er do get the best of that old sin nature until we get to heaven.” 

Two words: keep read­ing! Paul is tak­ing the read­er some­where and it is unwise not to fol­low him all the way to his destination. 

Read­ing through Romans 7 and 8 in one sit­ting can help us hear the flow of Paul’s argu­ment. The Mes­sage trans­la­tion makes it par­tic­u­lar­ly clear. What Paul lays out is good news of stag­ger­ing pro­por­tions. It’s true there are things that won’t be set right until the Mas­ter comes back and makes all things new, but in no way should that make us think all the good stuff has to wait until then. After all, this res­ur­rec­tion life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tend­ing life. It’s adven­tur­ous­ly expec­tant, greet­ing God with a child­like What’s next, Papa?’ ” (Rom 8:15 MSG)

We use often use curi­ous phras­es with­out real­iz­ing it. I just wrote: make us think.” But noth­ing real­ly forces us to think a cer­tain way, does it? A thought presents itself and we either buy in or we don’t. There may be good rea­son to buy in but it is still a choice. In the same way John com­mends us to test the spir­its so also we are to test the thoughts to see if they are from God.

You see, there is a place in us deep­er than our mind and that deep place knows cer­tain things to be true. From that place in our spir­it, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Holy Spir­it, we can use our will to direct our thoughts. The bib­li­cal word for this is repen­tance, a turn­ing of thoughts towards truth. Speak­ing Scrip­ture aloud is most effec­tive for this.

So when sad­ness comes charg­ing toward me, rid­ing the back of a dark thought, I may speak some­thing like this.

That thought is not who I am. The Lord is my shep­herd. I have every­thing I need. He leads me beside waters of rest. He restores my soul. In Jesus I am made right­eous. I am the beloved, a child of Abba God. Thank you, Abba, that you smile on me. Thank you for your patience and kind­ness. Thank you that because of Jesus sin no longer has domin­ion over me.

In doing so my renewed spir­it through my will speaks aloud to the unre­newed parts of my mind to bring them into agree­ment with the truth. The sad­ness often lifts. If it doesn’t, I may call a friend. Often the mind responds to truth when it is spo­ken by some­one else. The results are felt in my body, in my fam­i­ly, in my work. I am a pau­per no more. I remem­ber whose child I am and inher­it the soul-set­tled peace the Father has promised.

Text First Published March 2014 · Last Featured on Renovare.org May 2022

New Online Course: Liv­ing Inside the Lord’s Prayer

Author, teacher, and song­writer Car­olyn Arends pulls back the veil of famil­iar­i­ty to throw fresh light on the bril­liant­ly suc­cinct prayer Jesus taught his dis­ci­ples to pray. Launch sale: 30% off through May 17.

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