Some days, it is easy to have a positive attitude. It feels like the sun is shining inside my heart as well as outside. Everything is running smoothly. Other days, it is not so easy. Like today. It is raining outside and feels equally gloomy inside me. With the busyness of Holy Week behind me, I am feeling tired, run down, stressed, overwhelmed, grumpy. I have the blues. The weather outside is not helping matters. When I look out the window all I see is a gray, soggy mess. My self-talk has become negative. I have been dragging myself down instead of building myself up.
On days like today, it is important that I don’t allow myself to wallow in the depths of despair. I have been given so many blessings and want to feel grateful and positive. But how do I get from grumpy to glorious? One tool that I have found helpful is to return to my Thought Conditioners.
Many years ago, when John and I were searching for something to read together for Lent, we came across a little pamphlet called “Thought Conditioners” by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. Each thought conditioner is a short scripture, followed by a reflection by Dr. Peale. We read through the thought conditioners, one each day, during that Lent. After that, we decided that we would like to memorize the scriptures in the pamphlet. We took on the thought conditioners, repeating them often to each other, until they became incorporated into our hearts and minds. Since then, a thought conditioner often springs to mind just when I need one.
Last night, I was searching my mind for a thought conditioner that would snap me out of my funk. Nothing came. I looked the thought conditioners up, but none of them gave me the comfort I was seeking. Finally, as I was lying in bed trying to get to sleep, a song that I heard during Holy Week came to my mind. I played it over in my mind and it was just what I needed.
As the deer longs for running streams,
so I long, so I long, so I long for you.
Athirst my soul for you the God who is my life!
When shall I see, when shall I see,
see the face of God?
Echoes meet as deep is calling unto deep,
over my head, all your mighty waters,
sweeping over me.
Continually the foe delights in taunting me:
“Where is God, where is your God?”
Where, O where, are you?
Defend me, God, send forth your light and your truth,
they will lead me to your holy mountain,
to your dwelling place.
Then I shall go unto the altar of my God.
Praising you, O my joy and gladness,
I shall praise your name.
I could not remember all the words during the night, but I remembered enough that the song was helpful. This morning, I looked up the rest of the lyrics and have been meditating on them. Like the thought conditioners, this psalm is not a magical cure for melancholy. Still, as I have repeated it to myself many times over the last few hours, it has begun to lift my spirits. The rain outside does not matter so much. The mountains of unfinished tasks do not weigh so heavily on me. My heart feels lighter as I say to God, “send forth your light and your truth, they will lead me to your holy mountain.”
It is good to remember, when I am having a hard time feeling positive, that there are words of wisdom that can help. The writers of the psalms, and those who have set them to music, can help me to pray when I don’t even know what it is I am praying for. The aching inside me is usually not what I think it is – food, free time, money, toys. The ache inside me is usually a longing for God, a longing for wholeness, a longing for unity with my husband and family. Today, this song helped me remember that and put things into perspective. I can go to work with renewed energy. I can be nicer to the people around me. Tonight, I will come home with more joy in my heart and act in a more loving way to my family.
“Then I shall go unto the altar of my God. Praising you, O my joy and gladness, I shall praise your name.” I can feel the negativity leaving me and the positive energy returning as I repeat these words. No matter what the weather is doing outside, I can have sunshine in my heart.