During the last 6 ½ years that I have been involved in ministry to women recovering from drug and alcohol addiction, I’ve had the opportunity to hear every story imaginable and see every human reaction to that story imaginable.
I see the women struggling to understand what God is “doing” in the midst of it all. Some are convinced God has packed up and left town. Others, on the opposite extreme, find a peculiar comfort in the idea that God has “sent” this situation upon them in order to “test” them. However, recovering addicts are not the only people who pitch their tents at either of these two emotional and spiritual extremes. For many of us (myself included), emotional reactivity is often the name of the game.
I remember the first time I heard someone speak to the idea of being emotionally high. It seems that we can become addicted to our emotional reactivity. One reason is that our emotional reactivity is so familiar and ingrained into our hard-wiring, changing it can be as challenging as changing which hand we use to hold our fork.
This brings me to my point. To me, changing my emotional reactivity is about changing my thinking. I am incapable of changing my thinking by myself. I have to ask God to help me. In fact, I make this request of God nearly every day. In the spirituality class that I teach, I invite the women to “speak” their intention to God where this idea is concerned by getting down on our hands and knees, putting our foreheads to the floor and saying out loud, “God, change my thinking.” I would guess that on any given week, between 35 percent and 55 percent of the women will join me in this exercise. Some of the women find this to be the most enjoyable part of the class. Others, for reasons that I do not know and do not need to know, find it impossible to pull themselves out of their chairs and join us in this exercise of humility.
“God change my thinking” can also translate to “God, keep my emotions in the middle.” That not only means checking ourselves when tempers flare, but not going euphoric when something really good or exciting happens. In either case, we are giving ourselves that “hit” that feeds our emotional addiction.
To borrow from 12-step language, if we truly believe that it's a good idea to decide to turn our lives and our will over to the care of God as we understood God, then this applies to our emotional reactivity. This is an area that I want most of all to turn over to the will and care of God.
St. Francis is credited with writing a prayer that begins, “God make me an instrument of thy peace….” I think that’s an excellent prayer for all of us to use in beginning our day. Perhaps repeating it several times a day is helpful as well. Likewise, not only do we look to God to make us an instrument of peace in the lives of others, but also within ourselves. In other words, “God, teach me to calm myself down.”
God, change my thinking. AMEN.