I am tired of the carnival in my head. I cannot take credit for this thought, my good friend John Nunez tossed it out there in a wacky conversation and the idea has lingered. I guess I latched on to it because it’s so….me. Most days there’s a carnival going on in my head.
Let me help you get the picture. Imagine I’m leaving a simple conversation with some co-workers, and the next thing I know I’m whirling around on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, being tossed to and fro by thoughts like “well that was a really stupid thing to say….what were you thinking? they think you are an idiot” or spinning round and round in the teacups with thoughts like “you’re a failure. you’re a failure. you’re a failure” repeating over and over with every spin. Or maybe it’s being trashed back and forth on The Zipper, every mistake I’ve made that day replayed over again until I feel nauseous. Unfortunately, this is what the inside of my head looks and feels like a lot. No one would ever know by looking at me. I look fairly sane, basically put together. But inside my head, I’m often at the circus. Even as I write this, the carnival is just starting to rev up, the engines beginning to roar into life for the new day ahead. Here’s what begins to happen…”You can’t say things like this, you guys are the pastors and look how messed up you are. Get your act together before you lead. If you really trusted God and believed the things you say you do you wouldn’t think these thoughts. Where is your faith?” The craziness begins.
But I can’t stop thinking the thoughts automatically. I have tried that, doesn’t work. Then I just feel more guilty, like I should be doing something that makes the thoughts stop coming. I have tried applying God’s Word and taking every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ like it says in 2 Corinthians 10. Of course, that is helpful. It is definitely a start of a shift for me, a recognition that the crazy thoughts I think aren’t the truth and I need to look at it in the light of Jesus and what He says about me. But that somehow hasn’t been enough for me because it’s way too lonely. Just me at the carnival gritting my teeth through another bad ride, hunkering down with God’s truth, still just leaves me feeling a little lost. (side note: truthful statements that don’t sound “Christian” really get the whole Tilt-A-Whirl going)
What helps me the most is asking someone else to come to carnival with me so I can notice how ridiculous the rides I am on really are. A few days ago I was at a meeting with some dear friends where I was safe enough to share some of the crazy, irrational thoughts I think most days. A lot of my current weirdness has to do with stepping out to help build The Refuge but it’s not all that. I have been thinking these things long before we began The Refuge—it has just plugged my head into a speaker system and the voices are all louder than ever. My friends didn’t do much. Not a lick of cheap advice or pat answers, no telling me that I just needed to pray warfare and it would all go away. Instead, they listened. They laughed. They shared some of their crazy thoughts, too. And you know what? I felt a little sliver of peace for the moment, that I wasn’t an unfaithful person who needs to get her spiritual act together, that I wasn’t alone at the carnival, they sometimes take some wild rides, too. In that moment, I actually felt God in some beautiful, mysterious way. He was just….there. The thoughts felt less crazy, settled down a bit, not as loud. For a little while, I was off the ride, actually enjoying some cotton candy and a lemonade at the carnival instead of getting whiplash.