What Would Jesus Think?
Mindfulness is a common term now in education. There are new programs, professional development, and resources all focused around teaching mindfulness. The common definition for mindfulness is maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment through a gentle, nurturing lens.
Studies report the practice of mindfulness strengthens our body’s immune system and increases positive emotions which, in turn, reduces stress, helps us tune out distractions,and improves our memory, attention skills, and decision-making. While research studies do provide insight, as an educator I am always a bit leery when someone says, “Research says…” This phrase has been used to justify many ineffective instructional strategies over the years. No matter the initiative, we have to be smart consumers when it comes to relying on “research.”
Some would argue the concept of mindfulness has been around a long time. We see references to meditating and mindfulness throughout Scripture. Here are just a few.
Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. Colossians 3:2
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
Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. Joshua 1:8
I must admit I have been skeptical of the buzz around mindfulness. The trend seems to be a bit too focused on self. I know Christians are to be selfless, not selfish. So naturally, I wasn’t buying all of the hype. In addition, being a life-long educator means busyness is a lifestyle. Most of us are on autopilot just to survive. Who has time to stop and practice mindfulness?
However, the more I learn about mindfulness, the more I recognize the practice has its roots in a familiar place—God’s Word. In addition to the verses above, take a look at Philippians 4:8 in the Amplified version.
Finally, believers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable and worthy of respect, whatever is right and confirmed by God’s word, whatever is pure and wholesome, whatever is lovely and brings peace, whatever is admirable and of good repute; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things (center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart).
I like this definition of mindfulness—think continually, center your mind on, implant in your heart. You might be like me and wonder how do we actually do this? There is so much to think about and manage during the course of a day. We can’t be mindful about everything, or we wouldn’t get anything done! How do we actually manage Biblical mindfulness?
I am not an expert, but when I have a question, the only thing I know to do is search out the answer in God’s Word. I find all the answers to my questions there. While I can learn from secular experts in the field, my filter has to be God’s Word. I must determine if what I am learning or what is being advocated lines up with the Word of God. If it doesn’t, I trash it. Period.
I decided to write a blog on this topic because I am personally feeling I need to be more mindful, and I thought others might feel the same. For me, busyness is my greatest deterrent. I have written on the topic of busyness before if you want to check it out (https://www.victoriouseducator.com/post/busy-busy-busy). I am learning that mindfulness is simply getting a handle on my thought life no matter how busy I am.
Where do we start? Paul gives a pretty extensive list—whatever is true, honorable, worthy, right, pure, wholesome, lovely, admirable, excellent, and worthy of praise. In other words, focus on Jesus, and we should be good. When I used to teach young children in the church, if I asked a question and they didn’t know the answer, they would always say “Jesus.” Isn’t it funny how many times this is the correct answer? Jesus is where we start when it comes to centering our minds. Without Him being our starting point, our anchor, our standard, we fall into dangerous territory. I’m sure you remember the phrase, “What would Jesus do?” Maybe we can expand that to the following: “What would Jesus think?”
The greater challenge for me is when to practice mindfulness. While I suppose the ultimate goal is to be mindful all the time, I personally need some intermittent targets. I always start my day focusing my mind by reading and praying God’s Word. This is the easy part. I need help during the day once the craziness starts.
As I thought and prayed about this, God gave me a few nuggets, places where I need to begin. It may be different for you. I would encourage you to pray and listen as the Holy Spirit reveals your starting points.
Practice mindfulness…when I feel weak. Are their areas in your life where you seem to ask for forgiveness over and over? There are in mine. Maybe God is asking you to forgive someone or to practice patience. Maybe He is wanting you to give up something or express gratitude more frequently. Whatever it is, find a verse in the Bible that addresses this area or reminds you of His power over weakness. Write it down, and carry it with you. Put it in places where you will see it. Set a reminder on your phone to read it. Here are some helpful verses.
The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. I Corinthians 10:13
Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 2 Corinthians 12:9
Practice mindfulness…when circumstances go south. “Stuff” happens every day. You know what I am talking about. From defiant students to angry parents, from uncooperative colleagues to unfair supervisors—stuff just happens. It is during these times when we can choose to focus on all that is wrong, or we can stop, choose to be mindful, and center our thoughts on what is true, honorable, worthy, right, pure, wholesome, lovely, admirable, excellent, and worthy of praise. This could be quite difficult in our own strength, but that is not necessary because we have a Helper. We must purposefully ask the Holy Spirit to give us His thoughts, His words, and His actions in difficult situations.
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. John 14:26
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. Romans 8:26
Practice mindfulness…when circumstances are good. I am learning it is just as important to be mindful of the goodness of God and His work in my life when times are good. After all, it is only by His grace that I have anything. If we aren’t careful, we can become complacent or lazy during prosperous times. It is easy to take our situations for granted and forget we are simply stewards of what God has entrusted to us.
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace. I Peter 4:10
As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. I Timothy 6:17-19
No one can argue with the fact that our thought life is powerful. It influences our emotions, our words, and our actions. Being mindful of our thoughts will no doubt have a tremendous impact in our daily lives. However, if we practice mindfulness from a worldly perspective, it is not likely we will succeed. Life is too difficult to navigate alone, and too much of a focus on self produces selfishness.
Practice mindfulness from a Biblical perspective. What would Jesus think? He would focus His thoughts on what is true, honorable, worthy, right, pure, wholesome, lovely, admirable, excellent, and worthy of praise. The Holy Spirit will help us in developing this discipline. Practicing Biblical mindfulness will enhance our relationship with Christ and our relationship with others.
As you start a new week, join me in purposefully directing your thoughts toward biblical mindfulness. Look for opportunities to ask, "What would Jesus think?"