Thinking back across my life, I cannot think of a time when my mind was free from thoughts of the need to get things right. My anxieties stem from the lack of meeting my own standards. I constantly replay life’s events, trying to figure out how I could have acted differently or spoken differently to meet what are often my unrealistic expectations. I dwell on the past in order to change the future. These thought patterns are of my flesh.
I have spent the last year working through Re:generation, learning how to identify these thought patterns and protect myself from the havoc that they wreak in my relationships, but it wasn’t until the last month while studying Ephesians that I understood just how far from God’s example these thoughts were.
All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved.
— Ephesians 2:3–5
These thoughts are of my flesh, but God loves me so much that he has made me alive with Christ. I began to think about just what that means. Being alive in Christ and his perfect goodness is the opposite of obsessing over the goofy way that I said something in a meeting at work. Being alive in Christ does not wake you in the middle of the night because you have been so upset by reliving an argument with your spouse that day. Being alive looks more like what Paul describes in Philippians:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.
— Philippians 4:8
We must meditate on God’s goodness. When we dwell on thoughts that are filled with praise and thanksgiving, then we are practicing being alive with Christ. This practice is not an easy one, and our God who is with us knows how difficult humanness is. In John 16:33, Jesus tells us that we will suffer in this world, but that he has overcome the world. Hebrews 4:15 reminds us that our God is able to sympathize with our weaknesses because he took on flesh. Yet despite the trials that our world brings, a life with focused, edifying thoughts brings us a peace that surpasses all understanding. (Philippians 4:9). Being alive or being united with Christ aligns us with his goodness, his peace and his heart.