Your Brain and Your Mind
Let’s do an experiment. Using your left index finger, point to your brain. Now using your right index finger, point to your mind.
You paused. Yes, you did. We don’t necessarily think of our brain and mind as being the same thing. And they are different.
My husband will ask his students, “Does God have a brain?” and they pause. To say God is brainless just seems so wrong, but they know God is spirit, and a brain is a physical organ, so no, He doesn’t have a brain. David makes fun of the student for a while, but they are correct. God is infinite Mind, but has no brain.
In understanding the relationship between brain and mind, I like the analogy of a horse and an expert rider. The two work together as one; when you hurt one, the other is affected as well. One day, your brain – that three-pound slab of tofu – will die with the rest of your mortal body … but your mind, an integral part of the soul-spirit, will live on.
Renewing Your Brain
Now. Here is something amazing. Renewing your mind can also renew your brain.
MIND: You have probably heard about renewing the mind, but let’s review quickly. Paul writes about it in several places:
- Romans 12:2 – “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind …”
- Ephesians 4:22-24 – ” … put off your old self … and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, created after the likeness of God …”
- Colossians 3:10 – “… having put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”
The Lord is our owner; He bought us back. As with any computer or animal that you have acquired from someone else, or a child that you’ve adopted, there is a certain amount of reprogramming that needs to be done to stop the harmful old ways and dysfunctions and build in some new patterns.
We work, with God’s help, to put off old patterns of thought, speech and action. We put on new patterns that both honor God and are better for us. This re-patterning is called renewing the mind. I love how this concept is developed in How People Change by Tim Lane and Paul Tripp. We don’t have to remain as we are.
BRAIN: But, how you choose to think about things also changes the physical structure – “the wiring” – in your brain. In 1949, Donald Hebb, a Canadian neuropsychologist, wrote what has become known as Hebb’s axiom:
“Neurons that fire together wire together.”
This is an actual endoscope photograph of neurons that have touched so many times, they have now formed synapses and connected. Whatever the thoughts were, they have now become a pattern … for better or worse.
Now follow me. Things we experience – whether a feeling, a thought, a sensation – flow like electrical charges through thousands of neurons (wires) that are arranged in a network. The ends of these neurons, called dendrites, are where electrical charges jump across to another neuron.
OK, a new thought pattern now enters, like choosing to be th(i)nkful. Repeated charges shooting between two dendrites amazingly will form a new piece, called a synapse, that connects the neurons together to make a new pathway so that those thoughts or reactions will recur more frequently. This is why certain sounds or smells can trigger good memories or bad, and create giddiness or fear.
Hebb’s Rule explains that renewing the mind and renewing the structure of the brain go hand in hand. His research supports biblical truth. You can shape your brain’s neuronal architecture by choosing what you focus on.
A Testimony – Reshaping the Brain by Being Thinkful
I had someone send me this encouraging note regarding how she sought to implement thinking thanks in her life:
The practice of thinking thanks that I learned that day at your seminar has been life transforming. It has been the thing that has gotten me through difficult times. At first it was hard work. My mind would drift off my thankful list down a dark pathway of “what if’s” and I would have to pull myself back. But now it really has become a habit, and therefore it gets easier and easier! PTL for those new pathways in my brain. They have allowed me to sleep and work through difficult times. It is so amazing how God made our brain! Thank you for sharing these great principles with us!
Practicing thinking thanks even when it is quite hard to do so, will bring results. It will get easier as you develop the brain neural pathway of th(i)nkfulness.
Just Right Thinking Is Not Enough
Our relationship to Christ is not simply based on thinking His thoughts and acting the way He does.
“We are more than thinkers. We are worshipers who enter into relationship with the person or thing we think will give us life. Jesus comes to transform our entire being, not just our mind. He comes as a person, not as a cognitive concept we insert into a new formula for life.”
(How People Change, Tim Lane/Paul Tripp)
Let God renew your mind and fill it with thankfulness. But go beyond merely seeing His hand or the greater good in your circumstances. Let your thanks be turned into worship of the Creator, loving Him for His names and attributes. Worship your Lord through your thinking.