A brain can be extracted, physically handled, weighed and studied. The mind is something very different. Intangible. The mind, though invisible, is (as John Milton wrote) its own place. Our minds have a geography. Hills and valleys, sunny open meadows, pristine mountain tops and dark menacing forests, deep ravines and convoluted mazes. Every mind travels some hard-packed paths, trampled again and again. Unfortunately, too often these are not paths to the sunny open meadow or to the pristine mountain top.
This morning I thought on the key phrase in Lamentations chapter three: “But I call this to mind, and therefore I have hope:” (verse 21).
Jeremiah wrote in dark-geography-times. God called him to deliver an unpopular message and told Jeremiah in advance that the people would receive it with hostility. Jeremiah is called the weeping prophet for good reason. These were perverted times and Jeremiah was not a man bent towards seeing things through rose-colored glasses.
Nevertheless, Jeremiah chose a mind-path beyond the pollution around him and his personal sorrow and suffering. I’m challenged by Jeremiah. Amidst a culture gone amuck, he called his mind to the sunny meadow and the pristine mountain top and his hope was renewed. “But I call this to mind, and therefore I have hope.”
What did Jeremiah call to mind? “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him'” (Lamentations 3:22-24)
Jeremiah’s contemplation of God’s faithfulness and love continues for several more verses and is definitely worth a slow thoughtful read.
As I considered this passage, Psalm 92:12-15 came to mind as companion verses. The psalmist sings of the righteous who flourish, grow, and bear fruit even in old age. I read this and know that no one gets far into her life without experiencing hardships and hurts. So what fertilizes a real person living in a challenging world? What “vitamin-supplement” enables a person to flourish, grow, and bear fruit for a lifetime?
I think at least part of the answer lies in MIND-TRAVEL-CHOICES.
Those flourishing, fruit-bearing old people chose the path to the high and snowy peaks: “The Lord is upright; He is my rock; and there is no wickedness in Him.” They knew life’s hard knocks, just as we do. Their mind-travel-choice was to call to mind, just as Jeremiah did, the goodness and greatness of the Lord.
When I choose to contemplate the faithfulness of God, His holiness and kindness, His steadfast love, I am strengthened and renewed. I think this is what David was doing when the Scripture records: “But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God” (1 Samuel 30:6).
What path will my mind travel today? Live the mystery.