The pattern of this world is pervasive. There is no end to the variety of ways that our minds are bombarded with messages, both overt and nuanced, about how we should live and what we should believe. If one is not mindful, these messages become part of our lives in ways that affect our behavior, our attitudes and beliefs. From the music we listen to, the movies we watch, the news on TV and other modes of media, we are faced with an unrelenting parade of images, words and assorted other messages that block the voice of God from being heard.
It is not getting any better either. With the advent of social media, we now can read every intimate thought of friends, hear every hand wringing political diatribe, and every anxious thought of friends, acquaintances, and celebrity or politician that we choose to follow. For me, these things happen slowly and non-reflexively. If I don't monitor myself, my mind is filled with all this information that creates a level of unease and anxiety.
I think sometimes we honestly believe that the pattern of this world isn't all that bad. We think of material things that bring us comfort or sports that can be such a distraction. How is that bad? Then there is politics and accompanying vitriolic back and forth. It's fun, isn't it? What is so wrong with that? After all, how can we avoid it even if we wanted to?
Paul, as always, is on to something here. Our minds can only take in so much. I often sit back and ponder on what happens to me when something does go into my mind. I think about how much I sit back as a passive observer, listening to the news on TV or reading posts on Facebook and fail to realize that too often a byproduct of my passivity is anxiety.
The result of being transformed, Paul writes, is that we will be able to test and approve what God's will is. If our mind is full of all of the messages the world so desperately wants to send, how is there any room for God? If there isn't any room for God, how can we know of His will? If God wants to reveal Himself to us, how can we notice when we've focused on the wrong things?
Jesus told us that if we love Him, we will do what He commands. What is it that He commands? We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. When we live into this, the patterns of this world are brought into question. It is not possible to love the patterns of this world and God. You will love the one and hate the other.
The world offers us anxiety, worry and fear. This unholy trinity is delivered to us in many different forms. You don't have to ask for it, it is already available in abundance. But there is a better way.
Renewing of our mind is that better way. To experience this we must begin to be mindful of what we watch, listen to and think about. Sometimes the most holy thing we can do is to turn off the television, walk away from the computer and choose to stop being a passive receiver of the patterns of this world. If we do this, anxiety, fear and worry can be replaced. God wants the best for us which means there doesn't need to be room for this unholy trinity. We can experience peace in the midst of a world more and more filled with unease. The good news is that, as disciples, we get to choose what we will do. The first step in choosing the better way is to be mindful. We do not have to conform to this world. But be on guard, the world is relentless!