What happens to you when your brain goes into panic mode?
When I’m stressed, I clean. It fulfills a need for control when there is no control, and allows me to tidy up something physical because I can’t tidy the mess in my head. Ya know the feeling?
But sometimes the stressy head-mess gets so overwhelming, even a deep-clean of the bathroom and closet won’t cut it. What then?
I make lists.
THIS IS NOT A JOKE. I freaking love lists. Lists make sense of clutter. Rory Gilmore knew what was up—a good pro-con list can make or break just about any big decision.
A few weeks ago the mess in my head got too big and I thought I was going to lose my ever-loving mind. I mean it was an unpleasant situation, and my over-active anxious imagination was kicked into high gear. Have you been there before?
So I sat down and had a big list-making extravaganza. It turned out great. It helped so much, in fact, I thought: “BLOG POST BLOG POST BLOG POST. EVERYONE (who deals with the very real thing of **a lot of a lot of feelings about all of the things**) NEEDS THIS.”
So here it is: How to Make a List That Will Make Sense of All the Crazy In Your Head
(or at least some of it.)
Start by making three columns. Label the first one (in all capital letters): ASSUMPTIONS/LIES. Next to it, in the second column, the label FACTS. And the third column should be labeled TRUTH. Now start filling in the lists. Don’t try to do it in order, filling up one column at a time. Go with whatever thought comes to mind first. Take it captive and organize it into one of the three columns. Be very strict about what goes where. (Pro-tip: the Assumptions/Lies column will probably get a lot of action right at first. That’s okay.)
In that first column goes anything you might be making up, or making assumptions about, or anything that is a straight up lie from the pits of hell. You know when something belongs in that column. It is possible to be completely irrational about the most normal, everyday thing when your mind and emotions are already frazzled. But here's the thing-- even the most convincing lies aren’t actually all that convincing if you shine a bright light on them.
The second column: facts. Things you know to be true. You may be asking, “How is the fact column different from the truth column? Aren’t facts true?” Hold up a minute, let me explain. My roommate Chelsea (a very wise owl of a person) told me once that facts and truth are, in fact, not the same thing. “Facts can change,” she said. “Truth can’t.”
Think about it this way: A fact can be true for a season, maybe. For example, if I were to write in the facts column, “I am a barista”, that would be a true statement. But it may not always be true. I may not always be a barista. Thus, the statement cannot be called an absolute truth. It is subject to change. Only truth that is not subject to change can go in the third column.
The third column is the truth column. Or, if you want to make it more obvious, the Absolute Truth column. The only thing allowed in this column is stuff that could never, under any circumstances, change (do you see where this is going? If you do, you're smarter than I was when I started making my list).
I found that as I started to fill out the third column, everything started with “God is...” or “God knows...” or “God loves...”
- God is faithful.
- God is good.
- God loves me beyond measure.
- God knows everything, LITERALLY EVERYTHING, there is to know about this situation.
I was kind of surprised, and then I wasn't. Because duh.
In a world of shifting sand and believable lies and total instability, God is the one constant. Not only is He Himself constant, but His feelings, character, and presence are unchanging as well. As I wrote my list, that third column began to outshine the other two. The assumptions and lies in column one began to pale, and become almost laughable, compared to the Truth. Even the column of facts, for all that it was valid and real information, just didn't seem quite as important after all. Because the freedom of the gospel is freedom from worry and fear.
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons (also daughters), by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.
One more thing: You’re only allowed to reread and obsess over the last two columns. If you want to be a real stickler, only the third column. Because harping on assumed facts and lies will destroy you. It will. Acknowledge them, yes. Get those lies out in the open. But ONLY for the sake of exposing them to the Truth that will render them obsolete.
So while you aren’t allowed to reread the first column (ever.), read, reread, and read again the third one. Soak up the Truth and it will begin to change everything. It will heal your heart, calm your fear, and give you a peace and joy. Oh, what sweet relief there is in the knowledge that God is bigger than our biggest turmoil, and stronger than the strongest lie.
Here’s to lists. Here’s to organizing the mess and uncovering the truth, and discovering that the real Truth is more powerful than any stress or worry or panic, and sets you blissfully free.