While I was at the stove getting dinner started yesterday, Bethel came up to me and said “I have a problem.”
When I asked her what her problem was, she said “Well, all I can think about is Playmobil”
I smiled. Bethel has and enjoys very much a horse stable and animal clinic that is made by Playmobil. We picked up a catalog at a store and Bethel has since studied every page. She’s already planning birthday and Christmas presents for the next three years.
Her comment floored me. A lot of grown ups don’t recognize that their thinking is causing a problem. Bethel wasn’t really sure what the problem was, but it bothered her that she couldn’t think about anything else. I stopped chopping and sat down with her (dinner can wait). Talking about thinking is important!
I asked her if part of the problem was that she was not content with what she had, and was coveting what she didn’t have. I explained that it’s not wrong to desire what we don’t have, until that desire causes us to be unhappy with what God has already given us. [we’re defining terms here– primarily contentment] She said she thought it was a problem.
So I tried to explain how replacing bad thoughts with good thoughts works. It didn’t go as well as I wanted, because I normally illustrate the put off/ put on principle by giving someone a strong mental image (usually a purple elephant with a spotted monkey riding on its back, or some variation) and challenge them to stop thinking about it, all the while repeating what they are not supposed to think about.
But Bethel couldn’t figure what I was trying to do. She got confused. So I finally explained that God wants us to think about good things instead of things that cause us to sin. We sang a little bit of Philippians 4:8. I told her that mommy changes her thinking by preaching to herself: “Self, think about something else.” I told her that this is one reason I like to cook– it takes a great deal of concentration. I needed to get back to dinner before it burnt, so I asked her to come help me. I put her to work stirring a roux, and showed her how to keep it from burning, and then how to keep it from lumping once the milk is put in. I asked here if she was having a hard time thinking about Playmobil still, while she was thinking about cooking. She wasn’t sure.
So I suggested that she go and make a stable for the stable animals that she already owns. That way she could think about being happy with what God has given her (and the creative task takes up a good deal of mental energy for Bethel). She did, and soon every few minutes I’d hear her say, “Self, stop thinking about Playmobil. You can think about Playmobil tomorrow.” It tickled me to no end hearing her recognize how often her thoughts were getting out of control. After awhile, she commented that it was hard work thinking right.
That’s true. In retrospect… I didn’t talk about her thoughts as sinful.Were they? Or was it simply the discontent and out of control desires [i.e., lusts]? We didn’t talk about the gospel– that in our own power, thinking right is impossible to sustain for long periods of time. Our tendency is to worry, fret, and want what we haven’t been given. There is also much we could have talked about– how God gave us music to help us think right. I’m sure this conversation will continue on to another day.
This opportunity to teach was a gift from God, and I’m praying for more opportunities to see into the workings of how my children think.
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9