Retraining My Brain: Growing in Chastity

 Photo Credit: Jazmin Quaynor

Photo Credit: Jazmin Quaynor

If you’ve read my most recent blogs, you know I’m in the middle of a dream remodeling project taking place in my home. When our general contractor recently texted me, however, that the downstairs toilet was leaking water just inches away from 1,000 square feet of newly installed hardwood floors - I thought I was living a nightmare.

Naturally, I hissed a big four letter word (that’s slightly stronger than), “CRAP!”

My stomach wound itself up in knots about the “what-ifs”. What if the new floors are destroyed? What if all the work that’s been done is ruined?

I feared the worst.

Miraculously, just a few short hours later, our potentially disastrous plumbing issue was resolved (for the second time), and the remodeling work continued as planned.

Even though these unexpected setbacks threatened to “wash away” all the work our dear friends have poured in to this remodel, God is managing everything. He remains steady.

My emotions, on the other hand, have not.  

Nevertheless, God allows events like these to remind me of his faithfulness. Because undoubtedly I have and will experience far worse “setbacks” along my Christian journey. Yet God continues to remain steady and unwavering. And He always keeps His promises.

Why is it then, that time and time again I nearly come undone when a new marriage or parenting “issue” arises? Nearly allowing life’s surprises (and sufferings) to  “wash away” all the work God has done in me. If God can take care of a plumbing crisis, why can’t I be sure He will take care of this familial crisis?

When I read Jenny’s recent blog “Something Greater”, these words kept echoing in me...

Fix your eyes on something greater, Stef.

How I needed that reminder to help reset my focus (and my heart).

Stef, see past the what-if’s and live in the right-nows! Reject the fears of tomorrow and “potential disasters” of the future and instead, rejoice in His creation of today and the beauty of right now.

The disruption from our remodel has been bigger than I ever imagined, but I know God is using every single bit of it to help me grow in holiness - and virtue.

Similar to Jenny, I too am a recovering catastrophic thinker. Ever since I was a child, I could make myself sick over worrying.

In the pages of my MPC, I've written the words “heal me from catastrophic thinking” as one of my fervent prayers for myself.

After reading Jenny’s blog, I was reminded just how powerful my mind can be; and how what I allow to enter in to my mind has a tremendous impact on how I perceive reality. This is why I’ve needed healing in this area of catastrophic thinking.

Catastrophic thinking has affected me as a wife and mom when I obsess over a particular prayer intention or scenario about my husband or children. These thoughts can consume me. I read once that a person’s mind will feast on that (thought) which it focuses on.

I think all women (not just wives/mothers) can relate to catastrophic thinking. I would even assert that our “bend” towards catastrophic thinking is a result of our fallen nature. It’s why we need a Savior, a prayer life, and authentic community. It’s also why we desperately need to grow in the area of virtue.  

When I have experienced anxiety as a result of catastrophic thinking, I've learned to call upon the gifts of the Holy Spirit. God has helped teach me to grow in the virtue of chastity.

Years ago, I thought chastity was reserved only for sexual temptations and impure thoughts. Truthfully, I even thought that once Chris and I were married I could mentally check chastity off my “Christian to-do list”. I mistakenly thought chastity was synonymous with virginity.

When Chris and I were newlyweds, a young priest shared that the virtue of chastity is most often needed when a person struggles with the temptation of sexual lust. However, chastity is also the virtue one needs when faced with the temptation of other sinful vices - such as jealousy, coveting, comparison, or even speculating (gossiping).

This priest actually woke me up to the realization that I had areas in my life that needed the grace of this virtue. I needed the virtue of chastity to help me retrain my brain and reset my heart.

One example was in my relationship with social media - where I experienced incredible temptation. I would see others’ snap shots and wish I had more. I became consumed with mentally measuring myself against others. Other times I’d peer in to what others were doing in their parenting or marriages and suddenly think I needed an immediate change in my own.

If Chris showed any sign of resistance or objection, I’d act out in anger, jealousy, gossip, or ungratefulness.  

My husband can attest to how my catastrophic thinking (my unchaste thoughts) led to terrible disagreements in our marriage. I would compare Chris or our kids to that "glimpse" of what I saw in someone else’s life (via social media or in real life), which led me to ask Chris (or my kids) to be and do more.

Other times, my catastrophic thinking would inhibit me from engaging in healthy communication. I often reacted negatively to something Chris said or did not say which led to an unhealthy and unresolvable cycle of conflict.

I often reacted to a presumption or to a feeling in times past. Catastrophic thinking would blind me to reality. The younger me didn’t fully grasp the gifts of the Holy Spirit in our marriage - including His gift of chastity.  

With practice, prayer and personal growth I have grown in the virtues of chastity and temperance. I desire to focus on God's greater purpose - even in stressful, painful or seemingly impossible situations.

I seek to find the greatness even in a plumbing issue, because I know He is with me in the mess and muck.

I am a work in progress. I’m still working on freeing myself from catastrophic thinking with this remodel - about the design, the budget, and the what-if catastrophes. But for today, I am choosing to set my focus on God’s handiwork and the Great Designer that He is.

I am choosing to fix my eyes on something greater than a leaky toilet. I am fixing my eyes on the greater work He is accomplishing in my home (and in my heart) through this remodeling experience.

If you’re also a recovering catastrophic thinker like me - have hope! Whatever in your life is a “leaky toilet”, I pray you choose to surrender your “impossible what ifs” to the One who makes all things possible. I invite you to open your MPC today and pour out your heart to Him.

May this verse from Ecclesiastes bless you as it did me. God truly does have something greater for each one of us, no matter what trial we might be facing. He is always at work!

“Just as you know not how the breath of life fashions the human frame in the mother’s womb. So you know not the work of God which he is accomplishing in the universe.”
(Ecclesiastes 11:5)











 

Stef Blackwell

Stef Blackwell and her husband are raising their four kids and living the dream deep in the heart of suburbia, Flower Mound, TX. She’s a raging choleric and high functioning introvert, which some have said is impossible. But alas, here she lives to tell her tale. Her greatest strength is bossing people around; her greatest weakness is she bosses people around - and Jesus loves her just the way she is - today. She looks for the one mama who is standing alone and strives to bring them into the fold. God has given her a passion for marriage, motherhood, and living missionally.