Don’t Think

Oh, Facebook. I have a love/hate relationship with you. I love reading interesting articles that my friends post (even when I don’t agree). I love seeing pictures of kiddos as they grow. I love reconnecting with high school friends who are much cooler than I remember. But recently–you broke my heart. I’m used to seeing vacations I’m not taking and meals I wish I were eating, but this was different. You showed me celebrations I could and would have been a part of in another life. You reminded me that life goes on for others. You made me remember what I’m missing. And it hurt.

After a few tears, I remembered something I read this summer in Amy Poehler’s book Yes Please. Her former improv troop’s motto was “Don’t think.” The point being that when performing improvisational comedy, you don’t have time to think; you need to go with what is handed to you in that moment. I’m sure improv actors have prompts they wish someone would give. I’m sure they think of lines that would have been perfect if only they had thought of them in the moment. But that’s not the way it works. If someone stops to think in the midst of a performance, the whole dynamic changes and it ceases to be improv. You just have to take the scene as it is and keep going.

While I am a big proponent of reflection in general, there is a downside (as I experienced on Facebook). I can get caught up thinking about what used to be or what I wish were true now. I overthink and get lost in my head. When I spend too much time thinking, it paralyzes me from living in the moment that’s been handed to me. Worse yet, it can make me resentful of the life I’m living. I whine, “Why aren’t things like that?!”

In Psalm 42, the author remembers how things used to be:

My heart is breaking
as I remember how it used to be:
I walked among the crowds of worshipers,
leading a great procession to the house of God,
singing for joy and giving thanks
amid the sound of a great celebration!       
Psalm 42:4

What good times: surrounded by people, overflowing with joy and giving thanks as they celebrated God’s goodness together. When contrasted with his current state: tears for food while being taunted by enemies, it’s easy to see why the broken heart, but it’s not the end of the song. The chorus immediately follows:

Why am I discouraged?
Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
I will praise him again—
my Savior and my God!          
Psalm 42:5

The psalmist realized he was discouraged and overwhelmed because he was focused on the life he no longer had (and might never have again). As I read this psalm, I see the antidote to overthinking is “Don’t think.” Don’t think about what you would do if you could change things. Don’t think about how things used to be. Don’t think about what other people are doing. Don’t think about the life you don’t have.

Instead, think about what is right in front of you. Think about God and his unchanging goodness. Think about what we can praise God for right now. Think about the reasons we can have hope today: he’s Savior and God! When I approach the scene I’m in with the knowledge that God is ever present and always good, I cultivate the eyes to see the blessings right in front of me, just as the psalmist did. I’m freed up to enjoy life as it comes and continue moving forward. Maybe things won’t look like what I’d imagined and hoped for, but I won’t miss the lovely, everyday blessings. I won’t miss the joy.

Like the psalmist,

I will put my hope in God!
I will praise him again—
my Savior and my God!

One thought on “Don’t Think

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