The freedom of childhood is wonderful! My memories of those early years are warm and fuzzy. No cares, no worries, and few responsibilities other than making sure the wood box was full so mom could cook. But as life matures, so do my responsibilities. My backpack begins to accumulate “stuff,” and I begin this process of increasing anxiety. Some of those anxieties are proper as life matures, but others are like carrying rocks around with me. The question that is on my mind is, how do I keep a healthy mind as life begins to accumulate?

Nein Cheng lived with her husband in Shanghai during the days of Mao and The Red Purge. Mao Tse Tung released on the streets of all the major cities of China what we call “The Red Guard.” This “guard” was nothing more than a gang of revolutionaries whose goal was to report any and all activities of all enemies of the State.

Nein Cheng was considered to be an enemy of the State because she worked for Shell Oil. Nein and her husband planned to leave China, but before they could get out of the country, she was arrested. The government held her in great privation in an attempt to break her “capitalistic spirit.”

In her biography, Life, and death in Shanghai” she shares her struggle to maintain her thought life while she was locked up. The authorities would put her through a long period of questioning. She would then be sent to her cell to think about her sins against the state.

One day while wasting away in her cell, she had a visitor. The visitor was a spider. In her book, she shares how the spider helped keep her sanity. She watched as he spun his web, then waited patiently in the corner of his web as he watched for the prey. In one questioning session during this period, her interrogator shouted in her face, “it would be an easy matter to produce the evidence and punish you, but that is not the policy of our leader [Mao] The purpose of this confinement is to help you change your way of thinking and to give you an opportunity for a new life.”

Nein says “during those intense days when I knew they were trying to change me, I would return to my cell and focus on the symmetry and the consistency of the spider and his web.”

To keep our minds disciplined, thinking about the right thing will be a challenge all throughout our life. Gone are the carefree days of childhood when my biggest worry was what I would eat for supper. Now my mind is challenged with 10,000 thoughts a day, and some of those 10,000 thoughts will determine the very destiny of my life.

Joseph, the son of Jacob, could be held up as an example for us to follow in our thought life. His life was tragic in the human sense but successful before God. I wonder what Joseph thought life was like as he was sold by his brothers and tied to a camel caravan on their way to Egypt. Have you ever wondered what his thought life may have been as he was put on the auction block and sold to the highest bidder? What kept him from being angry at his brothers for what they had done to him? Why did he not develop a negative attitude and become filled with hate as his life in Egypt progressed?

Trouble and contrary winds will follow us through life.  These contrary winds and the trouble they bring are bound to affect our thoughts unless you have a spider’s web [our faith] to focus on.

The Biblical intent of adversity is not to make us bitter and to doubt that God cares. Rather, these incidents in life and the thoughts they bring can be an advantage. They make me explore my weakness and help me to see God’s faithfulness. In 2 Corinthians 12:10, Paul says, “therefore I am well content with weakness, with insults, with distress, with persecutions, with difficulties for Christ’s sake, for when I am the weakest, then I am strong.” What a contradiction in the natural.  We do not want any of those characteristics in our life. We want to go to heaven in the warm heavenly breeze. However, we will never know what we are made of until we have gone through the fire. We do not want a polluted mind. Paul further states in Romans 12:2, “…do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…”.

I have met many people whose circumstances are tragic. Their lives have been one long series of sorrow and tragedy. Their home life, their relationships, their memories, their finances, all these are a formula for a messed mind.

It is one thing to lose your freedom, but it is another thing to lose control of your thoughts. In some, their thoughts have spiraled out of control. Without help, they cannot find their way out of the maze of life. For some, the development of the “inner life” began in a dysfunctional home. They never had a model to follow so they could develop their inner life. Their mind was a nesting ground for all kinds of evil and wrong thinking. However, the same issue is present among those who had a model to follow, but they rejected it. Now, in mid-life, they find themselves trying to rebuild their thought life.

Viktor Frankl was an Austrian Jew who was swept away in the Nazi purge. He was in the death camp at Auschwitz. When released, he wrote “Mans search of meaning.” I quote; “We who live in the concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others and giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken away from a man but one thing. The last human freedom is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance. The way a man accepts his fate and all the suffering that it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity, even in the most difficult circumstances, to add a deeper meaning to his life.”

Life can become meaningless unless it has a purpose. We must find meaning in what we are going through. Nein Cheng finally made her way out of China and shared with the world how she made it. Joseph made his way out of prison to become a leader in Egypt. May I find the meaning of life through Jesus Christ and become an example to others.

I need not live in a maze.

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