Running With An Obsessive Thought

I have an obsessive personality, and I know I'm not alone. In fact, I think all runners are born with an extra OCD chromosome. It's why we set the alarm to rise before the sun for 3 or 4 quick miles before work, why we lace up our sneaks when its the last thing we feel like doing but our training program calls for 6 miles at tempo, and why we keep running when our legs would much prefer that we stop. Immediately.

Somewhere in training we must develop the ability to keep running beyond the point where our lungs feel like an over-inflated balloon about to burst. Having a power song or mantra helps. Starting at about the 20th mile of the NYC Marathon in 1992, when I started to really struggle, I sang the second verse of Wild, Wild Life by the Talking Heads over and over. The next thing I knew, I was heading into Central Park.

So, happily, my obsessive thinking had a positive use that day.

Unfortunately, however, this same thinking can be used for my own destruction. A thought can get stuck in my head for hours, even days. And do I have to tell you that the thought usually isn't something like, "Wow! I look positively fabulous today!"

Nope. The thoughts that I ruminate on are pretty much entirely negative. For example, I used to practice law. Even though its been close to 5 years since I stepped foot in a courtroom, I can still recall, ever so clearly, getting royally and painfully chewed out by a bankruptcy judge in 2005 before a client and about 20 of my peers. Ouch. The briefest reminder of that incident can cause my mind to quickly pull up that tape from the archives and replay that incident for hours. I can be momentarily distracted, but my mind will quickly return to that unpleasant loop of painful thinking. It's a mental flogging.

We've all said unfortunate things, lost control of our bodily functions, or just plain acted like an idiot. For those of us who are obsessive thinkers, however, these instances can haunt us for years.

Fortunately, I found something in the Bible to virtually eliminate this, at least for me. In Psalm 103, David writes about the Lord's mercies. Specifically, in v12, the Psalmist says, "As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us." Now, many of the thoughts that haunt me are not transgressions. No matter; the point is that we are as far removed as New Jersey from California when it comes to those unfortunate things we've said and done. And if God is capable of putting that kind of distance between us and our sins for which He died, wow! How much more geography would He be willing to put between us and simply an unfortunate choice of words or actions?

Clearly, God is not in the hostage-taking business, and neither should we be. He is able and 100% willing, to overlook our wrongdoings because He loves us. And if God is willing to offer us that kind of forgiveness, who are we to refuse it by not giving ourselves a break from destructive and disparaging thoughts?

So today, is there a thought or memory that haunts you? Does it keep you from feeling really good about yourself? If yes, isn't it time to send it westward? Ask Him to remove that painful or uncomfortable thought that holds your thinking hostage.