I woke up this morning, feeling quite a bit better than recently - allergies can be debilitating, to find I was tagged in a social media post. As I read the article, of which I don’t see myself as being worthy of, it got me thinking. And so, I want to share a very special secret of living.
It was nearly 25 years ago when I was given this mysterious key to living. I can’t say I’ve mastered it, but one thing I do is continually strain towards the goal. The lesson I share stretches way back to a sleeping bag, a wrestling star and running water.
I was a journalist in search of a story.
I was a journalist in search of a story. Having grown up in the area where I worked, I thought I’d retrace my roots to my high school and pursue a photo essay on the Wilderness Experience. Four days of wilderness hiking and camping with 15-20 high school students and two leaders promised some excellent photographs. I packed my gear and met them at the rendezvous point. Over the course of the week the students were given different physical challenges to overcome as a team. Having adjusted to sleeping on the ground, using moss and a tree for a bathroom and learning to start fires, the ante was upped on the third night, Solo Night!
The epic Solo Night required each student to camp alone out of sight of any other participant. Each was set up with a tarp, some rope, a sleeping bag and three matches.
As the leader, Dave, and I hunkered down that evening, he told me of Experiences from years before. He said it always seemed to rain on Solo Night. And, he said, more times than not the biggest and toughest jock would be the first to come whimpering back to base camp. Our conversation drifted against the flickering candle and we both fell asleep.
I don’t know what time it was, but I suddenly awoke to the sound of running water and the ever-so-icky feeling of being entombed in soaked polyester. The rain had come down hard and having saturated the ground, was now running directly around and through my sleeping bag. I wanted to so badly to get up and go home. But there I was, 20-something, out of college, in the middle of the wilderness and on assignment. As I quickly contemplated whether to scream like a little girl or not, I remembered the words of Dave to the students on Solo, “If it rains, stay in your sleeping bag. You’ll be wet but warm.” If I bailed, I would be setting a horrible example for the students, and not to mention, look like a complete pansy. Then something rustled the underbrush, and I didn’t move!
“Mr. Childs”, came a soft, masculine, desperate voice. “Mr. Childs, I’m cold.” It was the beefy wrestling star. Dave was spot on! The jock was the first to abandon his sight and come to base camp. In his wisdom, Dave repeated the instructions he’d given at the start. “Go back to your camp, get in your sleeping bag. You’ll be wet but warm.” And so the student slunk back to his lump of polyester.
One of the biggest seeds of success to life was planted in me that drenching night. Control your mind and and your body will follow. Yes, I was wet. Soaked, actually. But I was warm. I wasn’t injured. I would dry out - eventually. And so, like many nights since, I put aside the discomfort and fell back to sleep.
I can’t say I’ve always remembered this lesson. It returned to me years later as I lay on a swimming pool float decorated as a giraffe in a shack of a trailer in Arizona in the middle of a sand storm. It again tutored me as I tried to sleep in what I affectionately call, “The Horseshoe Bed” in Dajabon, D.R. Dripping wet with sweat in 100 degree weather, staring at stars through holes in a rusted roof as spiders crawled over my mosquito netting, I chose to evaluate my reality and go to sleep. And last year, oh last year, as my wife battled cancer, how many nights and days I settled into cruise control, taking my thoughts captive and demanding they submit to me rather than I surrender to them.
If you can control your mind, you can control your world.
If you can control your mind, you can control your world. Not the world around you, but the world you live internally. No amount of muscle can do this for you. That’s why the jocks always failed. They couldn’t out wrestle the rain and cold. But this isn’t a new insight. It didn’t come with science and research. It’s how we’re wired by God, it's a gift! This is why I’m fascinated with the teachings of the Bible. It speaks of these very things, as if the writers knew us better than we know ourselves.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2
We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Romans 8:5-7
But he (Jesus) turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Matthew 16:23
I could go on and on with the passages that speak about the importance of setting our mind correctly. And I know that many religions and philosophies understand this approach and maximize it in controlling, manipulating and shaping their constituents into the image the hierarchy desires. But the point of the Scriptures isn’t control or submission, but freedom.
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1
If you want to be successful in life, if you want to achieve, if you’re desire is to be all the man or woman God has designed you to be, you have to learn to control your mind - you have to become a Smooth Operator. I leave you with this passage from the Newer Testament that both my wife and I memorized this past year in conquering our fears. I’ve also included a link to the article that was shared with me this morning (please pardon the URL).
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8