For those of you who may not know, I graduated from Liberty University in 2009 with a Bachelors degree in Youth Ministry & a minor in Worship. I changed my major several times in my five years of school, but if I would have done things right the first time, I never would have experienced that fifth year. My last year at Liberty was one of my favorite years in college. It was the year that I finally figured out what I was made for; it was the year that I was an RA with my best friend, Kelly. It was also the year when God taught me to pursue Him instead of pursuing the mold that Christians think followers of Christ should look like, especially in ministry.
That year, Kelly was my right-hand woman. We laughed together, cried together, prayed together, & pulled all-nighters together. Just last week I met up with Kelly after six years of life in the real world. We met for lunch & talked about our lives. We shared what God has been teaching us & showing us about ourselves. Together we concluded that we wished we knew in college what we know now. Not just about God, but mostly about ourselves.
When we mature, I think the biggest thing that changes for us is the way we think. The way our minds process information changes as we grow older. The filter becomes more strict. There are more factors that we take into consideration when we make decisions. We can become either less sensitive or more sensitive. We usually think more rationally, usually have more intellect, & are likely to be more cautious. Usually the changes that happen in our mental maturity are good ones; they are changes that make us wiser, stronger, & more self-controlled.
When we are maturing in Christ, there is another component to our mental life that progresses as well. We find more about this in Romans 8:5-7:
Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.
It can seem harsh to say that someone is “dominated” by the sinful nature. But the reality is, when we are dwelling on sinful things, or things that aren’t necessarily coinciding with God’s will for our lives, our minds are being dominated by the sinful nature. We are letting that sin control our minds. We may mean well, & even as followers of Christ, dwelling on sinful things is never our priority. But when we don’t choose to make the life-giving, peace-making decisions, we are certainly choosing disobedience. No matter how long you’ve been following Christ, the sinful nature is always there, taking Godly thoughts captive & trying to inch its way back into dominating your mind.
Kelly & I fell prey to this a lot back in those college years, & we didn’t even realize it until now.
In the years since I’ve graduated, I have experienced what it means to both set my mind on the Spirit & to set my mind on the sinful nature. I have made decisions to step out in faith solely based on God’s leading. But I have also made decisions based on my sinful desires & selfishness. I have seen the difference that these decisions make in my life, & sense the difference in impact that they have on my conscience. I have experienced immense peace when I’ve trusted God & been patient to follow His lead. & I have experienced the immense darkness that comes with disobedience.
When I look back at who I was even just a year ago compared to who I am now, I see two completely different women. The more I have drawn near to the Lord, the more I have become controlled by the Spirit. The more I have become controlled by the Spirit, the more I have experienced peace. My life is enriched more & more daily as I have let His Spirit take control of my mind. It hasn’t been easy to do this, & I am still not a pro yet. I fall prey to unhealthy thoughts every day, but I know what they look like now. I know if left in control, I’ll be taken to that dark place again. But I am not that woman. The woman that God has made me —she is choosing every day for her mind to be controlled by the Spirit. She is choosing to live a life of peace, not of darkness.
Peace is about coming to terms with who you are, right this very second, & accepting who that is. It’s about being so self-aware that you have goals, daily ones, that push you closer to becoming the woman God has planned for you to become. Peace is something you pursue as you discover your pride & seek to pitch it out the window. It’s accepting God’s life for you, & being content & excited & grateful for whatever that is, no matter how different from your own dreams of what the perfect life might look like.
I believe that peace is simply a series of choices. The first one begins with allowing God to have control over every thought in your mind. Only then can your journey to finding peace truly begin.