Thought Spirals

I recently read one of the best descriptions of what I experience inside my mind that I have never really been able to put into words. The credit for that description goes to one of my favorite authors of fiction, John Green. If you haven’t read anything by him, you should because it is worth it. There is something about the way that John Green puts words together that I feel I could never possess the ability to do. His story-telling often reads more like poetry than it does a novel, maybe. If a writer can cause me to stop reading, as in, I have to stop because I need to grasp the depth of what was just said, then I am intrigued. In his latest novel, Turtles All the Way Down, Green uses “thought spirals” to describe what happens in the mind of an OCD teenage girl. She thinks to herself that “the thing about a spiral is, if you follow it inward, it never actually ends. It just keeps tightening, infinitely.” She also later explains that while everyone at times has “intrusive thoughts,” most people can distinguish irrational intrusive thoughts and choose to move on from that thought. Most people. For some people, the intrusive thought “can kind of take over, crowding out all the other thoughts until it’s the only one you’re able to have, the thought you’re perpetually either thinking or distracting yourself from.” That translates to an infinitely tightening spiral around thoughts that can be irrational and/or unanswerable. Unfortunately, it’s not exactly as exciting as it sounds.

I have been a thinker all of my life. In the last several months, that little quality of mine has become quite frightening. I love John Green’s label of a “thought spiral” so much that I decided to steal it for my blog. Because maybe for the first time ever in my life, I can describe what happens in me all day long. My little spiral problem used to lead me to believe that humans in today’s world have lost the ability to think about and process and question the overload of information thrown at them on a daily basis. Instead, we just walk around like little robots playing follow-the-leader. I am positive that I also stole that thought from some book I read. If I am being honest, it used to be a matter of pride for me, that I thought more than the average person. Not that I thought better, just that I thought more. Today, on the tail end of many dark and scary months, I now see my thoughts as a weakness. When the spirals begin to spin too tightly, you lose a sense of reality. As a Christian, knowing without a doubt that my Jesus is real is a reality that I can never afford to lose sight of, but a thought spiral can do just that. Very recently, it was brought to my attention that perhaps what I see as a weakness, is the very thing that God will choose to make strong in my life.

That being said, you should know….. I love Jesus and I have thought spirals.

I have known for quite some time now, that God has been guiding and nudging me to write. One benefit of my thought spirals is that they provide me with an infinite amount of material to write about. In fact, I never really stop thinking about life and Jesus and how it relates and what God’s Word has to say about it. Please don’t mistake that for me saying that I always live out what Scripture says. I often fail at doing that. Royally. I’m just saying that I never stop thinking about it; keep in my mind the danger associated with intrusives and thought spirals. 🙂 When kept in check, my thought spirals can be a sort of meditation on God’s Word. I welcome these spirals and am deciding to let them be what I write. If nothing else, at least I can obedient by writing.
Speaking of thought spirals and God’s Word, this morning I was challenged by the limitations that our thoughts put on Jesus. Not that we actually hold Him back from doing anything, because that would be silly, but that we limit Him in our minds. I was reading the story of Lazarus (the guy Jesus raised from the dead) in John 11, and something grabbed my attention. Verse 14 and 15 say this:

“Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

I don’t know about you, but at first glance, I’m thinking….. “You’re glad that you were not there???” Jesus seems a little rough around the edges here, until we read it through Jesus’ perspective. A few things stand out here:

1) Jesus considers His audience.

Being the wise man that He is, Jesus actually always considers His audience before speaking. If we take into account the fact that He knows what we will think before He says what He will say, we can assume that He speaks accordingly. Martha and Mary were sisters of Lazarus, all three of which loved Jesus and were loved by Him. When He received word that Lazarus had fallen ill, Jesus was with the disciples. I think Jesus was very aware that His audience were already His followers.

2) His audience already believed in His miracles.

When Jesus finally arrived in Bethany, Martha said to Him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21). Mary also said the same thing to Jesus when she was made aware that He had come. Even the Jews that were around to witness said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?” (John 11:37). Martha, Mary, the Jews, and Jesus’ disciples all knew that Jesus could and had already performed miracles. They went wrong here in limiting in their minds what Jesus could do. They assumed Jesus could have healed Lazarus. 

3) Jesus had much more in store than His audience could imagine.

They all assumed that the miracle was that Jesus could have KEPT Lazarus from dying, but Jesus had something much grander in mind. Rather than simply healing Lazarus in order to keep him from dying, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Jesus had already healed people of illness and disease at this point in the story. His audience was limited in their thinking to only what they had witnessed Jesus accomplish, but Jesus said that He was glad that He was not there. Jesus not being around to heal Lazarus meant that He would have to be there to raise Lazarus from the dead. What they saw as bad, Jesus used that they might believe. He is never limited by only what our minds are able to think.
If you are like me, and you spend an astronomical amount of time thinking, you may have found yourself limited in thoughts of what Jesus might do with a situation in your life. I certainly can list several situations in which I assumed Jesus would do one thing only to later find out I was wrong. Our finite minds are incapable of knowing what God will ever do. We can assume many things from what we have learned of God, but we can never predict the outcome. I think the challenge is to remain open-minded, to dream “holy dreams” of all the impossible things that God MIGHT be doing in situations in our lives. Rather than deciding the outcome, why not remain expectant of the outcome. Expect that God will do something only He can do…so that we might believe, just as Jesus said the disciples would.


4 thoughts on “Thought Spirals

  1. Wow Courtney!!! Just WOW! What an AMAZING entry!!! It’s truly amazes me the gift God has brought to fruition for you. As you stated early in the entry “I could never possess” the ability to write and explain these thoughts (spiraling thoughts) like John Green… well of course not because they were John’s! However you were limiting yourself which hindered your capabilities that have now so beautifully only BEGUN to be captured! You are an amazing writer and thinker and I am so excited to continue reading more! Your perspective and gift of analizing Gods word is absolutely beautiful and makes TOTAL SENSE! Thanks for sharing my friend!

  2. So happy to read this! And I really love “though spirals”… I get trapped in them frequently, too. Thinking of you often!!!

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