by Robert Berendt
Our minds are not only as active as we allow them to be
“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen” – John Steinbeck. He must have had two rabbits, as our family did – and suddenly there were eight – we thought they were both male rabbits.
Any idea consists of thought, meditation and concentration, as well as observation. Our mind gathers facts, sorts them and uses them if we have learned to think deeply. Sometimes out of “the clear blue sky” an idea will strike us, but only if that idea falls on fertile soil will it sprout. Discipline of the mind is a skill that can be developed. It stands to reason that when we find joy and success in putting our thoughts to a problem and solving it, we will want to do more. Ideas can come from some unlikely sources, but not all ideas have value. In this time of constant mind-occupying entertainment, we do not always allow our minds to be open to new thoughts or ideas. We are also not always very observant. Ideas sprout in prepared soil.
No doubt all of us would have had the remarkable experience of being faced with a problem that we simply were stuck on and couldn’t solve. In my case, it was calculus. I could not wrap my brain around the subject, though I tried hard. All of a sudden, while stepping onto a bus it felt like a light came on and suddenly the beginning of the understanding of calculus arrived, when I had not been thinking about anything in particular. It seems that our brain has the capacity to continue to function in the sense of sorting information and working on it – even when we sleep, or are not concentrating on the specific thing.
Another experience we have no doubt all had, is to find ourselves trying to think of the name of a person or place that we know and it simply will not come. It seems the harder we try, the more blanks we draw. Then perhaps 20 minutes to even days later, when we are not thinking about anything in particular, the name of the person flashes into our mind. That shows us that our brain continues to work – though in a subconscious way. Ideas sprout from fertile ground. I find that simply amazing!
One of the people who God loved dearly, but who disappointed God greatly, was King Solomon. He was commissioned by God to build the first temple in Jerusalem and it was one of the wonders of the then world (I Chronicles 22:5-6). Solomon came to God in humility and wanting only to be a good king, God was so pleased that He gave Solomon a special ability. He was to become wise – wiser than any who came before or who would come after him (I Kings 3:11-13). While Solomon was being tested by others, his answers were amazing. It was as though they sprouted from nowhere.
The first test of his wisdom came shortly after God’s promises. Two women came before him in an argument over a child that each claimed to be hers because each had given birth, but one of the two children had died. Solomon had an idea, called for a sword and was apparently about to divide the child in two when the real mother spoke up to spare the child. She was willing to give it up so it would live. (I Kings 3:24-27) His mind seemed to burst with ideas about what was good and right, how to live, how to grow in wisdom and talent. Solomon spoke 3,000 Proverbs and wrote 1005 songs. Ideas came to him quickly and often.
We humans are prone to taking ownership of our ideas – they may become our “babies.” When we do, it seems a wall of defense often grows and we defend each idea strongly. When that happens, we lose the flexibility of improving our ideas and learning to weed out the bad from among the good. Healthy advice is found in Proverbs 4:1-6. Work to remain humble and control our pleasures. Jealousy can extend to ideas as well as towards people. It seems in every garden the weeds sprout first and fastest – ideas often have that same ability. Test them carefully and then give the good ones time to grow.
King Solomon did not pay enough attention to where his success and thoughts were leading him though. In time he forgot God’s words and forsook wisdom, or the wisdom God gave left him and the ideas that sprouted resulted in God turning away from Solomon. Solomon began to intermarry with the daughters of surrounding kingdoms and in the end he allowed them to bring their pagan gods and beliefs into Israel. After only about 25 years of good rule, Solomon was marrying wives from all over until he could count 1,000 of them (I Kings 11:1-4). He soon began worshipping their gods. The ideas that sprouted were the weed kind, not the good crops. Solomon’s son Rehoboam allowed his own bad ideas to sprout until he convinced himself that he was greater than his father. The idea that he could be more brutal and hard and still be loved by the people led to the political division of Israel (I Kings 12:4,8,10). His ideas focused on how to gain more and more – until Rehoboam had no good ideas left.
Somehow we are able to believe so strongly in some of our ideas that we cannot let go though someone would prove us wrong. It seems to become a matter of ownership and we identify with our idea. It is ours and defines who and what we are in time. The account of the Pharaoh of Egypt being confronted by God through Moses is an example of a man who believed he was invincible and although he admitted defeat temporarily, the idea that he was invincible soon took over and pushed him back to confront God (Exodus 5:2, 7:4,9:17,11:5). Jonah got the foolish idea of running from God and that did not work (Jonah 1:1-3). King Saul thought the idea of saving some prize stock and the king of the Amalekites would make him look good (I Samuel 15:19-21). Elijah thought that fleeing into the desert was a good idea when he let the fear of Queen Jezebel engulf his thoughts (I Kings 19:1-4). Paul struggled to rise above his peers and thought that persecuting the church would give him greater position (I Corinthians 15:9).
Some have very good ideas and sticking to them may be the best choice. Young David the shepherd boy who met Goliath rejected the finest armour of the king and chose to face Goliath with his sling (and God’s support) (I Samuel 17:38-40). There have been many examples of people having an idea that they were able to strengthen with evidence which strengthened their belief, but when that collided with the thoughts of the society or church, it became dangerous. Galileo was almost killed for declaring that the earth was not the center of the universe. Christopher Columbus was thought to be mad for suggesting the earth was round and not flat. Benjamin Franklin added one new idea to another in his many discoveries. He worked in electricity, developed a flexible catheter, bifocals, improved street lamps and found how the common cold was transmitted. The variety of his discoveries show his mind was never idle – he was always looking, investigating and thinking. Alexander Graham Bell was the same. He invented the telephone, hydrofoils, artificial respiration, water distilling and even produced ideas for sheep breeding and more. These men and many more like them have developed ideas for the benefit of mankind and enriched us all. Some people are inventors, some have inquisitive minds and some are content to put the least amount of energy possible into thinking. I am convinced the human mind is the most interesting and amazing of all the physical living things God has created. Taking care of it by eating well, resting enough and having a good blood flow through exercise seems simple enough. Have a problem? Sit and think a while. In time you may be a problem solver.