According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, to perseverate is “to intently focus one’s attention on a thought or thoughts.” Or, simply put, to fixate on a thought.
Having started my educator experience in Special Education, perseverate is a word that I am used to hearing on a daily basis, especially as it pertains to students on the Autism Spectrum. We would hear or use that term to describe the actions of a student who had fixated their mind on a particular thought or action, whether it was theirs or someone else’s. Of course, the Baltimorean in me always wondered why they couldn’t just say “fixate” instead of “perseverate” yet here I am, doing the exact same thing. And as I confidently use that $10 word, I understand why we used it back then- it’s all about intent.
I promise you, I am not a perfectionist.
However, my thoughts and actions give Perfectionist- with the capital P- vibes. Oftentimes when I make a mistake, I sit in these nasty feelings of self-hate and disappointment, reliving the mistake over and over in my head. I can often stay in that dangerous place for hours, days, and even years at a time, simply replaying the mistake that occupies far too much of my mental space. And, no, I’m not fixated on that mistake. I am perseverating on it. I am intently focusing my attention on this one thought- my mistake- trying to mentally undo whatever I may have physically done.
It never works. Like toothpaste out of a tube, my actions cannot be undone and my words cannot be unspoken. Yet I sit in this place, giving way to doubt and self-hate, and I never know how to leave. It’s crippling and debilitating, often rendering me physically and emotionally weak the longer that I stay in that place. I wish it were as simple as me forgiving myself and seeing myself as God sees me. But it’s so much deeper than that…
Have you ever seen the movie “Inception”?
Leonardo DiCaprio stars as a man who specializes in stealing ideas/secrets from the minds of others as they sleep. Throughout the movie, we learn that not only is it possible to steal the existing thoughts of someone in their sleep, but you can also implant a thought into someone’s subconscious. In order for this to happen, one must take the thought down to its simplest form and subtly leave it in someone’s mind, understanding that the person will water and grow that small thought on his/her own.
Well, Beloved, at a very early age, someone planted a thought in my heart and head that I have continued to nourish for too many years of my life. The planted thought started off small and possibly harmless, but the events of my life watered and developed that thought, allowing it to blossom into the “truth” that heart often believes today.
What was the simple thought that was planted in me?
“You are not loved.”
Is it ok if I take a moment to unpack, reorganize, and then re-pack some things???
Thank you, sweet friend!
I am so incredibly sure that my parents and my family loved me growing up, however, I do not recall hearing those words (in their defense, I have a mental block from anything that happened before I was eight years old). I do not recall a time when someone came up to me, pulled me in their arms, and randomly said, “I love you, Michelle.” I know, it seems so small, but words- and lack thereof- have so much power! I did not know that my family loved me so it was hard to believe that anyone else could ever love me.
How do you tell a young Believer that God loves them unconditionally- a God that they have never seen- when they don’t even know or believe that their family loves them, people that they see on a daily basis? Personally, I think this is one of the flaws of old-school religion. We spent so long telling people that God loved them, without telling them what love was or what it looked like. Yes, this is my shameless plug for RELATIONSHIP over religion. Religion is restrictive, while RELATIONSHIP is reformative and redemptive. Give me a RELATIONSHIP with God any day, over a religion that keeps me in a box!
But I digress.
I didn’t think my family loved me and because of that, I didn’t think that anyone did or could love me. Growing up as a young, Black girl who feels unloved is a precarious place to be. I sought love in so many unhealthy places and from some unsavory people. I spent decades trying to convince myself that I was worthy of love… long before I even knew what love was.
Hear me clearly, John 3:16 is love in ACTION. From that verse of the Bible, we learn what love does by understanding what God did for us. Yet in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a, we learn what love IS. We learn that it is patient, bears all things, believes in all things, and that it never dies. When we put those two passages together, we see the WHAT and the WHY of our beliefs and have the foundation for our relationship with God. I didn’t know that as a child. I was told that God loved me, but I did not know why. And because I didn’t see love at home, coupled with me not knowing what love was, I did not know that I was loved.
Not knowing that I was loved as a child manifested into me hating myself for the smallest infractions… and that’s how we get to the point of today’s message.
I willingly and freely admit that I was wrong for all of these years. I intently focused my thoughts on the mistakes that I made, believing that no one could ever love me because of them, and thereby isolating and alienating myself away from people who were trying so desperately to love me.
Wow; say that five times fast!
Today, I am choosing to shift my thoughts from purely acknowledging that God loves me so much that He sent His Son to die for my sins, to fully comprehending what love is and its power. Understand, I am not diminishing what God has done in my life and Who He is. Instead, I am starting with the purest and simplest seed of a thought, choosing to water that thought and allow it to grow into something so beautiful about my God.
Intently shifting my focus is what my heart and mind are choosing to do both today and forevermore.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a
And then perseverate on this truth…
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
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