The way to topple the idol of rumination

Ruminating is a dominating compulsion.  Even though everyone hates to ruminate.

We do it when we’ve felt run over by a powerful persona.   For hours and days afterward, our mind reruns the script, inserting every good comeback we wish we had made.  We resolve that never again will we be caught off guard, and we spend hours in our heads practicing our words for the next time.  Meanwhile, the life playing out in front of our eyes remains unheeded and ignored.

We do it when we anticipate a tense conversation.  We strategize, thinking “first they’ll say this, and then I’ll respond….”  We rehearse our roles in the theaters of our minds; we anticipate twists and turns the conversation may take.    And after hours of anxious preparation, the conversation never goes the way we had hoped.

We ruminate when we feel trapped, frightened, worried, or helpless.   Our thoughts, ever going in circles of anxiety, wear down a dusty path in our minds.  We lie down to sleep, but our brains are abuzz, giving no rest.   We seek the company of friends, but exhaust their patience as we pull them in the swamp of our obsessions.   We refuse their invitations to walk with them to a happier place.

Rumination is a cruel idol that shrinks our world, robs our time, and steals our joy.

We depose the idol by wishing the objects of our rumination well.  Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.

“But I don’t have enemies – I try to be friends with everyone.”

If you’re ruminating, then you’re in a stance of opposition with that person.  You are fixating your thoughts on them and the negative response you imagine from them.  It doesn’t matter if you think they’re an enemy, if you’re ruminating about them, then the scripture applies.  Pray for them.

Pray for them in this way.   Pray blessing over their lives.   I honestly confess to God that I’m feeling angry, hurt or frustrated.   I honestly confess that my motives are mixed and I don’t know how to pray aright.   And then I use the words of scripture to pray for blessing in their lives.

I pray that they may know the height and breadth and depth and width of God’s love, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses all knowledge (Ephesians 3:18-19).   I pray that they may be filled to the full with the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control (Galatians 5:22-23).   I pray that they will experience the fullness of God’s love with bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things (I Corinthians 13:7).

Invariably, God shows me my own poverty in these things.  So I also pray for my own growth in them.

And usually, after all this prayer, God helps me take my eyes off the idol of my rumination, and fix my eyes on Him.    And I feel better.   And I can attend more fully to what He has in store for me in this moment.

Eventually, I start to ruminate again.    When I notice it, I take a deep breath and I chuckle at my own frailty.  I pray blessing once again into the life of the person with whom I’m in opposition.   I trust that God does indeed bless them.

And it helps me – it reminds me that I’m a sheep who must stay close to the Shepherd.

Soli Deo Gloria


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