One of my favorite books I read as a child was The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett. This classic, published in 1909, tells the story of how two children, one crippled physically (Colin) and one emotionally (Mary), are restored and healed through their discovery and tending of an abandoned, walled-off garden.
I remember being especially struck by these lines:
“…thoughts—just mere thoughts—are as powerful as electric batteries—as good for one as sunlight is, or as bad for one as poison. To let a sad thought or a bad one get into your mind is as dangerous as letting a scarlet fever germ get into your body. If you let it stay there after it has got in you may never get over it as long as you live.
“…surprising things can happen to any one who, when a disagreeable or discouraged thought comes into his mind, just has the sense to remember in time and push it out by putting in an agreeable determinedly courageous one. Two things cannot be in one place.
“Where, you tend a rose, my lad,
A thistle cannot grow.”
Power in our thoughts
There is so much power in thoughts. And the wonderful (and scary) thing about being human and having free will is that we get to choose what we are going to think about. If we dwell on negative, critical, complaining, worrying thoughts, they will eventually poison us and contaminate all those around us.
However, if we push those out and choose to think about “an agreeable determinedly courageous” thought, we will be transformed and can then bring much light and healing into our troubled world.
It’s up to us.
God says it this way in His Word:
Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8
Frances Hodgson Burnett goes on to describe the transformation of Colin’s father, a grief-stricken widower who travels often searching for peace and relief. As his son, miles away in England, is being strengthened and revived through the beauty of creation, he, too, is undergoing a powerful but gentle transformation. Sitting by a gurgling stream after a long hike in a valley in Austria, he gazes at the flowers growing there and thinks how lovely it all is.
“He did not know that just that simple thought was slowly filling his mind—filling and filling it until other things were softly pushed aside. It was as if a sweet clear spring had begun to rise in a stagnant pool and had risen and risen until at last it swept the dark water away.”
As we go through this life, we get to decide what thoughts we are going to dwell on. A huge variety of thoughts flit through our minds at rapid-fire pace, moment by moment. But which ones are we going to foster and allow in? Are they ones that fill us with worry, or make us bitter, or poison our inner peace and relationships? Or are they the pure, sweet, clear ones that sweep away the darkness? It’s our choice.
As we head into the busy holiday season, when so many discordant noises are clamoring for our attention, let’s make a conscious decision ahead of time what thoughts we are going to default to. It might be a good idea to write out a few good ones and tape them on your mirror or refrigerator — an uplifting Scripture, a meaningful quote, some inspirational lines from a favorite book. Keep going back to them, allowing the sweet, clear truths to wash away any toxic negativity.
Descartes famously said, “I think therefore I am.” And we can add, “The way I think is the way I am.”
How do we choose to be?