“Get that thing out of here!” I shrieked as the snake slithered down the hall and out of sight.
“Aw, that thing is more afraid of you than you are of it,” Tom said.
I cast a withering look in his direction, every nerve in my body on edge, poised and waiting for the creature to reappear. Of course, I had no idea what I was going to do when it did; I just wanted to know which direction to run.
”Copperheads don’t even like people,” he attempted to calm me. “It won’t attack you unless you provoke it.”
“Really? I’m pretty sure I’m the one feeling provoked. It doesn’t belong in here. It has to go!”
The building where I worked was located on the edge of swampland in South Georgia. It wasn’t terribly uncommon for one of these little poison ropes to find their way inside. The building was big and cool with thick woods on two sides and a deep drainage ditch on the other. Parts of it were still unfinished, and there were plenty of dark corners for a snake to safely hide.
Any time I knew one had gotten inside, I was freaked out for weeks! I didn’t want to put my feet under my desk for fear one would wrap around and bite my ankle. There was a long walk down a dimly lit hall to the bathrooms, and I would make all kinds of noise on the way to announce my presence and, hopefully, send any unwelcome inhabitants scurrying elsewhere. It was impossible to let my guard down and relax, knowing that a serpent was loose somewhere.
Sometimes we (well, when I say “we,” I mean someone else) caught them and sometimes we didn’t. Every time this happened, I would put my guard up and be on the alert everywhere I walked. I would threaten to quit my job and work somewhere safer, maybe in a building that was up on stilts. Eventually, however, enough time would pass between seeing the slithering creatures that I could settle down and slip back into my normal routine.
On the Loose
Now imagine you had a snake loose in your home. You knew it was in there somewhere, but you couldn’t find it. It was pretty good at disappearing and seemed to make itself invisible any time you got close.
Would you be able to let down your guard and relax? Could you sit in your comfy chair and watch television with the lights off? Could you crawl into bed for a sound night’s sleep?
Probably not. Unless …
Unless all your attempts at capturing that thing were unsuccessful. I mean, you tried, but it always evaded you. As time passed, you would resign yourself to the fact that it preferred to lurk in the shadows and slip in and out without your notice. It never invaded your clean, bright spaces and never came out when other people were around. An unresolved fear may linger, and you might be likely to flip on the light switch before you set foot out of bed, but eventually your guard would come down and you would slip back into your normal routine. After all, maybe it is gone, you’d think. Maybe it was never even there in the first place? You haven’t seen it in a while. What if you are worried about nothing?
Toxic thoughts are like this. They slip in … sometimes we don’t even know how. It isn’t like we open the door wide and invite an evil thought consciously into our minds. But once inside, they do their best to evade capture. Toxic thoughts do not like to be brought captive. They prefer to lurk in the shadows, away from the clean, bright spaces of your mind. They are content to live where no one else knows or goes. They need very little nourishment to survive, but bit by bit they will claim more and more territory. They will breed and bring other toxic thoughts with them until you have a den of them thriving in the darkness. Your clean, bright spaces shrink, and the toxic thoughts get bolder and bolder, twisting their poisonous little ropes around every good thought and squeezing the life out of them.
As your guard goes down, you get more and more at ease entertaining them. Before long, you are co-habiting comfortably with them—they become part of you. Toxic thoughts are poison to your destiny. They are the saboteur of dreams and the restricter of goals. They convince you that you are lonely, that you are unworthy, that you are not talented enough, not smart enough, not rich enough … just plain not enough!
Thoughts matter. Even little ones that sneak in unaware. You must nurture healthy thoughts and be ever-vigilant to take the toxic ones captive and expel them. Toxic thoughts become limiting beliefs. Limiting beliefs will guide you to make unhealthy choices. Unhealthy choices will develop into destructive habits, and destructive habits rob you of the rich life God planned for you.
Call the Exterminator!
It might be time to go on a snake hunt. If you are too frightened or feel ill-equipped to tackle this on your own, then it might be time to turn to some trusted leaders who can help you turn bright lights on in dark corners and remove every viper that has a stronghold in your mind. Don’t allow these little poison ropes to tie down your destiny one more day. It is time for you to become free!