“Be not conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Romans 12: 2
Gaining an Understanding of Myself
Day 3: Understanding Myself Mentally
“It is not enough to have a good mind. The main thing is to use it well.”
What do I fill my mind with?
“Occupy your minds with good thoughts, or the enemy will fill them with bad ones: unoccupied they cannot be.”
“For as (she) thinketh in (her) heart, so is (she).”
King James Version
Not long ago I was with a group of individuals and we got in a discussion about a religious topic. The talk turned to what one person called a “theological” discussion, which after checking my dictionary I found is defined as, “the study of the nature of God and religious truth.” This definition I must say, aptly applied to the direction of our conversation. As we each added our insight to the discourse, someone turned to me and said, “What do you think, Dorothy? You seem to take this stuff seriously. You’re always studying and reading.” I rather carefully laid out my perspective, a view that had taken many years of Bible study to develop. When I finished, one of the men in the group asked, “Do you have a doctorate in theology? Where were you trained?” And, oops, then he added this comment, “I didn’t know that women studied this kind of stuff. I’m surprised you know so much about this topic.”
I want to be clear. He wasn’t demeaning me. I know the person. He is kind and sensitive. I truly believe he just didn’t understand that men aren’t the only ones who like to fill their minds with profound ideas. Thankfully, before I judged this gentleman harshly for his comments, my thoughts turned to Mary of Bethany, a misunderstood woman.
One of the greatest misunderstandings in Mary’s life was that she was a “deep thinker,” a student in a world and culture where women weren’t allowed to gain a traditional education. And sadly, over 2,000 years later, we still have huge parts of our world where women, treated as third and fourth class citizens – or worse, not treated as citizens at all – are still denied their God-given right to gain an education and expand their minds and lives as God intended each of His created children to do.
Of all the gifts God has given to us, the gift of a fertile mind, where we can plant the seeds of eternal wisdom, is one of the most underused gifts of all. Whether learning is denied by a culture and society or as in the case of other countries of the world where we are given the opportunity to learn but choose to feast on the most lowly thoughts and ideas, we, as women in particular, need to grasp the blessing of the gift of our minds and the unlimited capacity we have been given to expand the wealth of knowledge we choose to incorporate into our thought processes.
For nearly 25 years, I’ve helped domestic abuse shelters around the world raise funds so they can provide a haven – a place of safety – for women who are beaten down physically, emotionally, and mentally. Over and over again, I have found one common thread that helps women in the most dramatic way break the cycle of abuse. This thread is the ability of God’s daughters to expand their minds through educational pursuits that help them understand the gifts they have been given by their Heavenly Father contained within the well of their minds – a well that God supplies with His water of life.
Now you may be thinking, I don’t have a “formal” education. I didn’t go to college. I didn’t go to high school. I didn’t even go to elementary school. And while attending school to expand our minds is something I encourage every person to do, I have friends and relatives, who although they never acquired a “school” education, were the smartest people I ever met because their minds feasted on the greatest text books we have, the book of God’s creation, nature – and the book of God’s Word, the Bible. From these two sources, they gained knowledge and wisdom and judgment that surpassed all the degrees higher education can offer. As Thomas Aquinas wrote, “A scrap of knowledge about sublime things is worth more than any amount of trivialities.”
The wisest man who ever lived, Solomon, throughout the Proverbs contained in Scripture, points to the use of our minds as God’s gift that will help us embrace the majesty and glory of our Father, God. Solomon, in his writings, constantly reminds us that if we focus our thoughts on God, we will find knowledge and wisdom beyond anything we could ever dream about. Thomas A’ Kempis agreed with King Solomon when he wrote, “All (persons) naturally desire to know, but what doth knowledge avail without the fear of God?”
Years before Solomon ever wrote the Proverbs, a young boy, David was out in the fields, keeping watch over his father’s flock of sheep. Under the blue sky and walking on the fertile, green earth, this shepherd boy began to sing: “I meditate on all Thy works; I muse on the work of Thy hands” (Psalm 143: 5 K.J.V.). One might consider a sheep herder an unlikely individual to be talking about the depth, width and height of the God of the Universe, but David’s constant contact with God gave him mental keenness that he would have been unable to gain in any other way than by contact with God.
If you and I as women (and men, too!) want to understand ourselves mentally, we have to go no further than to God’s word and the beauty of His creation. It is here where we will receive an expanded comprehension of the glories that are at our fingertips and within our reach.
May our prayer continually be the prayer of St. Augustine; “Lord, teach me to know Thee, and to know myself.”
“Lord, thy word abideth,
And our footsteps guideth;
Who its truth believeth
Light and joy receiveth.
O that we discerning
It’s most holy learning,
Lord, may love and fear Thee,
Evermore be near Thee.”
Sir Henry W. Baker
“As one who travels in the heat
longs for cool waters,
so do I yearn for wisdom
and as one who is weary with walking,
so shall I sit at her well and drink…
…But who can find wisdom’s swelling place,
and who has searched her out?
for many have said to me, lo, here is wisdom,
and there you shall find understanding;
here is true worship of God,
and thus shall your soul be satisfied.
But there was no delight in my soul;
all my senses were held in check.
My body became alien to me,
and my heart was shriveled within me.
For I sought understanding without justice;
discernment without the fear of God.
I would have filled my belly with the husks of knowledge,
and quenched my thirst with what was already stagnant.
But you have blessed me with emptiness, O God;
You have spared me to remain unsatisfied…
…So while I live I will seek your wisdom, O God;
while I have strength to search, I will follow her ways.
For her words are like rivers in the desert;
she is like rain on parched ground,
like a fountain whose waters fail not.
Then shall my soul spring up like grass,
and my heart recover her greenness;
and from the deepest places of my soul
shall flow streams of living water.”
St. Hilda community
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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