August 17, 2011

Clementines and Honesty

I was in a rush that morning, but everyone else seemed to be moving in slow motion. During my lunch break I had gone to the store to pick up a few things I needed at home. In the produce section I saw clementines, those tiny delicious mandarin oranges my husband and I love. I grabbed a bag and headed for the checkout stand. Seeing a very long line at each of the stands, I decided to use a self-check kiosk.
Quickly scanning my items, I hurried through the process until I got to the clementines. There was no tag, and with no tag, there is nothing to scan.
No problem, I thought. I’ll just look up the item on the kiosk monitor. Clementines . . . clementines . . . no clementines! How about tangerines? After all, they are tangerines, right?
Scanning through the list of produce, I saw the word “tangerines.” Placing the bag of clementines on the scale, I pressed number 1, for one bag. It registered, and then I finished, paid, and was finally on my way.
2011 1523 page24Leaving the store, I glanced at my receipt. “Tangerines,” it read, “39 cents.”
“Wait a minute; that isn’t right,” I said to myself. “I know the clementines cost $6.99.” Oh well, I thought, I’m in a hurry now; I’ll deal with this later.
“What? Where did that thought come from?” I wondered.
“It would be stealing,” another small voice said. Still another voice, somewhat louder, interjected, “It’s not really stealing if you plan to deal with it later.” Yeah, right! I thought.
I heaved a heavy sigh, thinking that sometimes it’s hard to be a Christian, especially when you’re in a hurry. I loaded my other grocery items into my car, grabbed the bag of clementines and my receipt, and returned to the store.
Once inside, I noted that the line for customer service was even longer than the checkout line had been. I really don’t have time for this! Then it came to me—yes, I did. No matter what else was happening that day, it would have to wait. As a follower of Christ, I have no room in my life for dishonesty.
The Committee in My Head
Life often seems so hectic. We find ourselves rushing here and there trying to get everything done, and we don’t stop to listen to that still small voice within us. I believe that “small voice” is of the Holy Spirit, who gently corrects us, showing us the difference between right and wrong. Whenever we get too busy—too distracted with all our tasks or overwhelmed with the noise surrounding us—the voice of the Holy Spirit can scarcely compete.
I have learned that listening to the Holy Spirit is an acquired skill. The louder, more dominant voices seem to carry the point with the committee in my head. I remember the first time I became fully aware of this committee. It happened many years ago during a seminar in which the instructor was talking about the voices in our heads. The participants, including me, all looked at him with these blank stares. Without missing a beat, he said, “You know, the voice in your head that just said, ‘What voice?’ ” We all laughed, because at that point we knew exactly what he was saying. To this day, I am always aware of what those voices inside my head are saying.
As humans, we have a steady stream of consciousness continually flowing through our minds. We tend to associate this with what we call “thinking.” I used to believe I could stop these thoughts, but now realize that is impossible. If you don’t believe me, stop reading for a minute and try to stop thinking. See—it doesn’t work, does it?
Interjected here and there in our minds are thoughts, or voices, that we don’t always recognize as our own. At times these voices say positive things; at other times the things we hear are negative. The negative thoughts are often judgments about someone or something. For me, it’s frequently the negative voices that pretty much run the committee inside my head. At some moment in your life, you’ve likely experienced the same thing. For example, let’s say that you see someone you know in the grocery store. You say hello to them, and all at once there is this voice inside your head that says, “What on earth was she thinking wearing that shirt in public!” Or perhaps it has happened when you’re in a meeting with your supervisor, and he is talking to you about your work performance. Suddenly you’re thinking, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, blah, blah, blah. He must have had a fight with his wife last night!”
We Are What We Think
At times I am shocked and saddened by these voices I call my thoughts. The Bible says in Proverbs 23:7: “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.”* This verse reminds me that my thoughts are a big part of who I am, or who I present myself to be. In order to be all that God desires, I’m learning to stop the negative thoughts and voices. Sometimes the only thing that works is to silently yell, Stop! You could even shout it aloud—but make sure you’re alone!
After an attempt to stop a negative thought, it’s very important to replace it with a positive one. A cherished Bible verse is perfect, because it reminds us to keep our eyes on Jesus, our Creator, Friend, and ever-present Helper. One of my favorite verses is Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” I’ve also been truly blessed by offering a short prayer, asking God to help mold my thoughts into things that are pleasing to Him.
I’ve read that if you practice something every day for 30 days, it will become a habit. Cultivating the habit of thinking good thoughts is possible only through a relationship with the Holy Spirit. One way to engage in this relationship is to search for and memorize a short, suitable Bible verse to use for the day. This is a soothing and extremely helpful part of morning devotions.
As anyone who is growing spiritually can tell you, changing one’s thinking patterns is a difficult process. It’s a skill I’ve not yet fully mastered; I know, however, that I am a work in progress and that God is not yet through with me. My prayer is that I will continue growing in His grace and reap a rich harvest of the fruits of the spirit as outlined in Galatians 5:22, 23: “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”
* All Bible texts in this article are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Judy Andreson is a freelance writer and artist living in Elko, Nevada. She enjoys hiking, travel, painting, and spending time with her husband, Ross, and their two dogs, CoCo Chenille and Bugsie. This article was published August 18, 2011.