You know they say that an idle mind is the devil’s workshop, and I’m sure whoever’s grandma coined that term, it is just as true today as it was then. But from a Christian perspective, I’d like to suggest that the mind is in and of itself the devil’s workshop, and being industrious at the wrong things, and thinking the wrong things, are equally deadly culprits inside the lair that the devil makes his permanent home in. History has indeed proven that purposeful zealots with the wrong ideas have had devastating consequences that still speak to us from their ideological graves. And it is no less true of little ole “you and me”. For our daily thought patterns can lead us further into the black hole of despair; and either progressing us into creatures of ghastly malevolence, or forging us ahead into the light of goodness, peace and hopeful possibilities. The difference of course is as obvious as the nose on our faces to anyone who gives a damn about actually taking a little look see.
In fact, I know a little bit about this from a lifetime of fighting my way outside of a burrow of which I speak. For instance, my own family of origin has been riddled with clinical depression which has left scars of which still have not been repaired, nor has any glimmering hope as of yet blown any smoke up our derrieres as to its possibilities. And the consensus coming from the glaring “peanut gallery” still lingers on like a good dose of indigestion, woefully concluding that the plague is pervasive throughout the entire gene pool. This has caused many to assert that there’s just no getting away from the “que sera sera” of our family tree. In other words, “it just is what it is”. And I would be ever so bold as to say that this viewpoint about our own “day to day” movie-screened lives is prevalent among the vast majority of those we bump into, more so than we would like to admit. Thus, we often forget that the devil had his minions long before Felonious Gru, and they are also equally legion and parasitic.
It should be no secret then that this sort of deterministic prognostication of fate set its path in order to define my own destiny of capitulation to this reality becoming the final curtain call of my life. And to make matters worse, I often listened to the lying, slithering tongue; reminding me each waking hour that I could not rise above both familial and environmental circumstances. It also gladly replayed for me that the trajectory of my life had already taken its turn for the worst, and that the best that I could do was buckle in for the long and bumpy ride. And were it not by the grace of God in introducing me to the discipline of ingesting the word of God like Pavlov’s dog , as well as the consumption of books by others who fought their way out of the false and final prediction of their lives, I too would have become a casualty of war that far too many believers have somehow forgotten we are in. And to say that time spent with God and becoming a bibliophile has transformed the way time outside of the devil’s workshop taught me to rethink, is to agree that the Pope is indeed Catholic, and it is a debt to which I can never repay. And yet even so, the workshop never closes, and it constantly vies for a subtle takeover of our minds; and before long, we’re caught up in a web that is slowly but surely preparing us for a slow-cooked dinner. And the sad part is, even those of us who know better, can on any given day just as easily consent to its bidding for control of how and what we should think.
In fact, this reluctant surrender day after day to the lies that often come in different packaging can carry us away by stealth, and before we know it; we’ve kicked the dog, filed for divorce and told the boss to take the job and shove it! And then for the umpteenth time, once the pieces have been dusted off and picked up from the ground, we forge ahead again, vowing in some epiphanic moment to pick up some deaf ears to the lies that went and sidetracked us again. And that’s for those of us who have already taken the class, and who have already spent a lifetime attempting to bend the knee to the one who has whispered to us too many times to count, that this can only be corrected when we die(both then and now). But who the Hell wants to do that? Death to self won’t sell any tickets to the show these days I’m afraid. No one is lining up for self-mutilation, and we can’t resurrect Simon Stylites from the dead and live vicariously through him. And the truth is, continual dying to one’s self as a step forward in thinking rightly, if we’re not careful, can turn one into a visual zombie of sorts. We can become a walking dead man in desperate need of a Joker’s smile painted onto our face. It can leave us broken and bruised, notwithstanding becoming an ornery ole cuss to be around. And the irony is, the very (partial) answer to our dilemma can also make us bitter inside. We walk around carrying our real and self-imposed crosses, all the while secretly hoping for our public martyrdom so that we can watch people at our wake self-flagellate in tandem at the deeds they’ve committed against us.
Or we can go another route. We can buy into “name it and claim it” motif, which starts off as a pretty good remedy for what ails us. We have our Bible promises that we can recite reminding us that “we are more than conquerors”, and “we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us”. We can also tell ourselves rightly that the devil seeks to kill and destroy, is the father of all lies, and even add a little “God don’t make no junk” to the equation for good measure. If we add to that a good charismatic church; the latest Joel Osteen book; a sprinkle of Tony Robbins; and a circle of friends that will walk this path with us, it can be really good medicine–for a while. Yet the truth of the matter is, at the point at which our new found lamp doesn’t yield the genie often enough, we find the minions have merely been biding their time and they still have our mind’s address in their rolodex. And though there is great truth in both of these measures to be sure, we find that the cure for lingering and tinkering too long in the devil’s workshop is actually a two-edged sword, and one that seems to cut us either way we turn.
The Devil Is In The Details
The more I have walked on this narrow path however, I have come to the conclusion that the truth for us from the mouth of God is usually “both-and” and not “either-or”. God’s ways are indeed past finding out, and yet He also lets us in on His general secrets. For instance, there is both a cross and a resurrection, and a time for this and time for that. We have also grown in our walk, yet we are childlike in so many ways still. And thus equally, we are daily reminded that the heart is desperately wicked, and there are not many who can ever really know it—particularly, and most importantly, in ourselves.
And so I have found that much of our misery on this planet comes from lingering far too long inside of the devil’s workshop. That’s a truism you can take to the bank. Yet also like a hotel I once heard of; it is also a place that you can check out but can actually never leave this side of heaven. For each and every day, like Peter, the workshop longs to sift us as wheat. Or like Martha, cause us to be concerned about many things, except for what really, really matters in light of eternity. But never fear, God has prayed for us both, and He has left us some final thoughts. And like the Gambler who once said you have to “know when to hold em” and also “know when to fold em”, I think the Nazirite summed it up best when He said: “I have said these things to you, that in me you might have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world”.