Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you. Ephesians 5:14
What a great admonition from Scripture. Sometimes we feel so dead that it's like we don't know how to "WAKE UP," how to get started in reviving or launching a joyful vibrant spiritual life.
In graduate school, I took a course called Creativity in Teaching. In it, I was introduced to an amazing body of work by countless authors who have spent their lives researching how the human brain works, how we get stuck in our thinking, and how we may get unstuck.
There are tons of verses in the Good Book that address the central role of our minds in living a vibrant life, what we are to center them on, and how we are to take captive every thought. There are not, however, a whole bunch of tools and techniques that are readily available to the novice in the arena of creative thinking.
Thankfully, there exists an incredible body of wisdom in this area that we may tap into to wake up our spiritual lives!
There is no background color or shading behind this text block you are reading. So, unless you have some kind of shading device on your computer screen, if I were to ask you - "What color is the background behind these words?" - you would probably say "white." Right? White.
W...H...I...T...E. Can you stop for a second and say that word out loud? "White."
Now, say and answer this next question out loud - "What do cows drink?" Answer? _____
In my travels speaking to audiences around the world, whenever I do this exercise, or some variation of it, invariably most people say out loud the word "milk." However, as I point out to the audience, if you take some time to think about it, you would probably more correctly say "water." (Occasionally someone will cry out "Baby cows drink milk!")
Thinking About Thinking
Edward de Bono has written more than 50 books on creativity and creative thinking. In one of his books he states wryly that the "purpose of thinking is to abolish thinking." That the reason we think about things is so that we don't have to think about them any more.
With so many things to think about, especially living in the "information age," our minds do get overloaded and we do try to move from one thought to the next as quickly as possible. We do this by drawing on the body of knowledge we already have between our ears and applying it to the new information we are receiving.
In answering the question about what cows imbibe, we take the word "white" and when we add "cow" we then think "milk."
This is what we do in our spiritual thinking too. We hold onto concepts already in-between our ears. When a question or new information is presented, we naturally associate the question or information to what's already there. Normally, we don't think too deeply. We say "milk" and move on.
If the information does not fit our way of thinking, we tend to defend our current way of thinking and discard the new information. Rarely are we willing to deconstruct our current way of thinking to accommodate new ideas. It may be risky and it takes work. Most of us are risk averse and already have too much to think about.
Unfortunately, in being unwilling to intentionally suspend our assumptions to consider new ways of thinking - please note that I did not say discard our assumptions - we can get stuck in our thinking and miss out on brilliant, life changing, spiritually awakening truth.
We typically think in a linear fashion. We hold tight to the thought that this approach is logical. And, we highly value logic. We build upon what we already know, adding new information in a way that fits with what we already think.
When it comes to thinking about spiritual things, I've heard people say things like "I was born a ______ (insert name of denomination) and will die a ______ (same denomination)." Sometimes the "set in stone" beliefs we hold onto come from a grandparent, parent, or some human spiritual authority figure.
Sometimes, when given the opportunity to think differently, if the thinking does not fit the way we already think, we discard the new thought and move on.
If after saying "milk" we are corrected with the notion that cows drink water, we laugh and say "oh yeah." However, not so fast with dearly held religious beliefs! Not saying that religious beliefs are not worth being dearly held onto.
It will be helpful, however - in order to WAKE UP our spiritual lives - if we are willing to try to think new thoughts and to engage our minds in exercises that will help us consider who God is and who we are.
Lateral thinking is thinking about something differently - incorporating creative "side trips." Instead of thinking "milk" by just adding thoughts together, lateral thinking puts our minds to work in ways that will have us uncover truth by thinking in more creative ways.
I spoke previously of "tools and techniques" for creative thinking. There are dozens if not hundreds of them that we may use to help us think laterally and more creatively.
So Let's Get Started!
In the Blog section of this site, I have shared many tools and techniques for creative thinking to help you engage your mind in your spiritual journey. To help you WAKE UP your spiritual life.
There's a story about a man who had a whole bunch of problems. He had talked to all of his friends and family members about his problems. He had spent countless hours worrying and fretting about the potential outcomes that might occur because of all of his problems. Finally, he went to a mature Christian he knew to share his burden.
After listening to the man share his problems, the mature believer looked at the man with compassion and said, "Let's pray about these things together, right now." With a look of surprise on his face, the man with the issues cried out, "Has it come to that?!"
As we embark on a journey to WAKE UP our spiritual lives, let's begin with a prayer. Please feel free to say your own prayer...but if you need a little help getting started, you might want to say something like this:
Dear Father, more than anything, I want to be alive and awake, in You. Please help me and teach me to draw near to you and to be filled with the joyful and vibrant spiritual life that You intend for me to have. Amen