Create an Obstacle
How do you stop movement along a well worn pathway? You put a log in the way. You create an obstacle.
When driving down this road, all of a sudden there is no way that I can continue driving when I reach this log. I am going to have to do something different. I have to carve a new pathway around the obstacle.
The best way to stop doing something is to replace it with something else.
At first this new pathway feels so hard and unfamiliar. It has not been worn down and made smooth by people walking on it repeatedly. It is new and a bit bumpy. The way is not obvious. I may have to improvise as I go along.
This new path has to be developed and that takes time and effort. Step by step you begin. Baby steps, that is. In time and through repeated efforts, you mat down the grass and smooth out the path. You may need to get a shovel and dig out a big stone or cut back a root that is sticking out. It begins to change, little by little. One day you could even run that new path with no problem.
Our brains are very similar. To break behavior that is not pleasing to the Lord, we call on Him to help us reset our minds and carve a new path of thinking.
Carving a New Path
When stopping a sinful habit of complaining and grumbling, it will normally take something big, like a log across my familiar path, to stop it. Sometimes a family member will mention your negative attitude – they are throwing some branches across the path to get you to change. But you don’t.
Then the Spirit convicts you strongly about your complaining spirit during your pastor’s message, or you are dismissed from a ministry, or passed over for a promotion at work, because you are so negative – and that’s when the tree falls across the path. You disregarded branches, so God sent you a log. Now, you deliberately resolve to do things differently.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
As we continually present ourselves as a living sacrifice to the Lord, He will enable us to change. We desire to be conformed to His will (I Thessalonians 5:18), but it is not easy to leave the broad and easy road of complaining to follow God’s ways through the woods.
So, when forging a new pathway, it is profitable to have a basic plan in hand. How would you lay out a plan for creating a new neural pathway in your brain? Does God really expect me to do this? What are the benefits? How hard will it be?
You could set up an alarm system for yourself. What little alarm could go off when I begin to go down that old blocked dead-end road?
- Maybe I could cut out a little red stop sign that would be a visual reminder throughout my day that I need to stop my normal pattern of grumbling and complaining.
- Maybe I need an accountability partner (your kids would be glad to help!) to give a funny sign when I begin my old pattern of complaining – the slash of a hand across the throat, or dotting fake tears down the face with an index finger.
Reprograming by Recounting
Psalm 9 has some great advice for us. The psalmist says, “I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.” He had discovered the worth of the gratitude neural pathway. Learning to recognize and recount God’s work in our lives brings glory to God, but also helps our brain change as we turn an action into a habit. It gets our perspective on who God is, His character and His sovereignty. It fosters our ability to trust in Him.
Set up a routine of saying three things you are choosing to think thanks about at a certain time and place each day. When you wake up, try to think of those three things before you even get about of bed. If you’re not a morning person, you could wait until after coffee. Maybe it can be at dinner time; if you do it then, you may inspire other family members to follow. The routine is strongest if you see your hand write the words. Get a basic journal and begin recording these three things right before bed; you may have added more by then. 🙂
At first it will not feel natural to do this – it’s a brand new pathway through the woods! But I can promise you that after keeping this pattern for a month, it will begin to be so natural that it barely takes a minute or two to complete this. The reset of your mind is taking shape. You are becoming more focused on the Lord God. The pathway in your brain is developing.
The blocked mental path has now made way for a different one ~
A mental path that will become easier and easier to go down as we obey the Lord in calling out to Him for grace.