A sound mind. I couldn't imagine anything more important. At the time, everyone seemed so clear-headed compared to me. And yet, according to Paul, a sound mind was available to me and others like me who were confused, lonely, and alienated from a sense of self.
According to Paul, a sound mind wasn't an accident, it was a gift; one that could pull us away from fear; one that in conjunction with love and compassion, could transform us from an unhealthy state into a state of peace, clarity and purpose.
Those words from Paul gave me a hint at clarity. They also elicited in me a desire to experiment; an interest in seeing if I could initiate talking with people in a useful, entertaining, maybe even a meaningful way.
For years, holding a conversation had been purely utilitarian. I talked when I had to talk; when I needed something; if the topic was art, especially when it involved me and art. I rarely initiated any exchange with people who I didn't know. Feelings of inferiority kept me focused on me and ways to protect myself from others finding out how shallow and empty I was.
But Paul inspired me. He was highly educated and he had transformed the way he looked at himself: from a respected persecutor of Christians, to a sinner of the first order, and finally to a beloved child of God despite his prior actions. He was a bull dog: a former Pharisee who had made his peers angry to the point of wanting to kill him yet he continued along a path he knew in his heart was right and true. He also had a message to share with others that helped them see life in a more beautiful way even during times of wide spread persecution and fear.
I discovered through Paul that people who have a noble mission, one they believe in and that helps others, and they pursue this mission amidst difficulties and dangers; these kind of people are capable of lifting us out of our discomforts, our pain, our illusion that life has no meaning or purpose other than the material.
If having a sound mind was a gift from God, then I too must have one. And if I had one, maybe I needed to consciously work at activating it by living a life focused on some purpose and meaning that was beyond myself. A life alone was antithetical to Paul's life and message. Instead of maintaining my thinly constructed veneer and maintaining my distance and isolation, it occurred to me I needed to reach out and begin to take new risks.
Having a sound mind wasn't about not being crazy. Or maybe it was. Having a sound mind was about being able to focus on what was really important in life.
"Finally brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue, and if there is anything praise-worthy, meditate on these things." Philippians 4:8
To be continued ...