“Papa, I just can’t get the f-word out of my head! Ahh!!” cried my seven-year-old son, Hudson.
His frustration was mounting. I could see anxiety rising in his young heart. His bright eyes were now clouded with fear. A tear trickled down his warm cheek.
He reached out and placed his small hand on my shoulder, and whimpered, “I don’t know what to do… please, Papa. Help me.”
Rolling back the camera about four weeks…
Hudson was at a small neighborhood playground with some friends. Amid all his energetic scrambling, he became acquainted with a young girl somewhere between the slides and swings.
For some peculiar reason, Hudson’s new found friend emphatically pointed out a word painted on the underbelly of the slide. With great enthusiasm, Hudson proudly displayed his super reading skills by perfectly sounding out the word… nice and loud: “F***!” He then repeated it several times to make sure he got it just right.
His young friend apparently hit the panic button and shouted Hudson down, “No, no! Stop! That’s a very, very, very bad word! You’re not supposed to say that word!”
Hudson raced back to our sweet friends who were watching him that afternoon. His questions collided together as he anxiously asked them about the “very, very, very bad word.”
Within a few short moments, his sensitive mind starting spinning in a ferocious cycle of fear.
Now twenty–eight days later, Hudson was still trying to wrestle that nasty word out of his mind and vocabulary. Every so often, our wonderful son’s hyperactive and compulsive tendencies scarf away the best of him. He’ll slip down a maddening whirlpool of emotions, thoughts, and words.
Because he had become so fixated on how “very, very, bad” those four little letters could be sitting next to each other, he began saying the word out loud – too many times to count.
“I can’t stop it, Papa. I keep saying it!” Hudson gasped again.
My heart hurt for Hudson. But even though I’ve received a rather large amount of biblical and theological training, I wasn’t really sure what to say.
I quickly pleaded with God for wisdom and laid my head down next to Hudson’s. We looked around his small room for a moment as I tried to veer his attention toward Legos, cars, Star Wars – anything but that “very, very, very bad word.”
Just then, God gave me a thought.
“Hey, Hudson. Do you remember what color your bedroom was before we painted it last year?” I asked.
“Uhhh… no, Papa. You ask silly questions,” Hudson replied.
“No really, Hudson, do you remember what color your walls were before we painted in here?” I questioned him again.
“No, Papa. I have no idea…were they blue? Brown? Purple?” Hudson remarked with an impish grin.
“Well, honestly I don’t remember either, buddy. Now that it’s been over a year since we painted, I can’t really think of what color it was. Right now you’ve got the f-word painted on the walls of your brain. You see it all the time, don’t you?”
“Yes, Papa. I can’t get it out of there.” Hudson said quietly.
“Son,” I continued, “What you need to do is put some new, good paint on those walls. Sometimes I get stuck thinking about things that aren’t good, too. But if we paint over the bad words or pictures by thinking about good words and nice things, pretty soon we barely remember the bad words or pictures.”
“Just like you and I can’t recall what color used to be on these walls, the longer we continue thinking about new, good, beautiful words and ideas, the less we’ll remember the old, bad stuff. It won’t make us afraid or control us anymore.”
“Hmmm… but can you help me put new paint on my walls?” Hudson asked.
I answered with a smile, “That’s just what God talks about in Philippians 4:8, buddy. Do you know that verse?”
I could see the fear melting away from his eyes and the anxiety began to lift from his heart as we read this passage together:
“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute [commendable], if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell [think] on these things.” (Phil 4:8)
This command to continually ruminate on the beautiful and good and true is woven between two promises – promises of peace that Hudson (and I) desperately needed to hear:
“By prayer and supplication…let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:6b-7)
“The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Phil. 4:9)
Peace of mind and heart is sourced in God and received from God as we proactively dwell on what God calls good. God alone provides the way to true, lasting peace.
We are continually inundated with voices, words, and images that are conformed to the way of the cosmos rather than the way of Christ. So again Paul wrote to another group of believers in Rome:
“…be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rom. 12:2b)
Time for New Paint
So what’s on your walls? Is it time for some new paint? Are you struggling with fear or anxiety over words or ideas or images that seem indelibly plastered on the walls of your mind?
Take a small step. Think on something good. Reflect on a lovely thought. Ponder excellent ideas. Remember what is true – about you, about God, and about how He thinks about you.
Roll some new paint onto those old walls. Put some beautiful color on that plaster. Let the peace of God rush in and fill your soul as you dwell on what He calls good.
Fast forward to yesterday, on the way home from school Hudson suddenly piped up, “Uhh…. Papa, I just said the f-word again. Ahh!”
“Hey, buddy, we already put new paint on that wall, didn’t we? Good words and God-pleasing ideas, right?” I replied.
“Mmmm….Yeah, Papa. I did. I think I’m okay now.” Hudson calmly replied.
“I love you, Hudson.”
“I love you, too, Papa.”
 Dr. Mike Emlet, a faculty member at CCEF, provides helpful teaching and resources for those struggling with what is known as Religious OCD and Scrupulosity. See https://www.ccef.org/shop/product/religious-ocd and https://www.ccef.org/topic/obsessive-compulsive-disorder. See also Dr. Lori Riddle-Walker’s article, in which she recommends Emlet’s work: http://lrwalker.net/article_whatisscrup.htm