Over three years ago we moved from Greenville to Bluefield. A shift in color wasn’t the only transition we made, but it continues to be the hardest one to remember. Our football team colors are red and blue. I know this, and I also wear red and blue in some combination at our football games. Still, when we play a team that wears orange and black, I get confused. At some point in the game, I cheer for the wrong team…every.time.
I’ve attributed this forgetfulness to old age, but it turns out there is more to creating new thought patterns. Holley Gerth explains in her. You’re Already Amazing Life Growth Guide “our brains make neural pathways when we think certain thoughts repeatedly. When we change those thoughts, it takes time for new pathways to form. And here’s the kicker: while those new pathways are being created, what we know is right doesn’t always feel true. Updating a thought pattern is like learning a new habit, and it can take six months to a year for that process to be complete.”
In order to think differently, our brain needs to physically create new paths for the thoughts to travel along. Many people quit in the process of creating new thoughts without even realizing they are doing so. It takes work to consciously go against the pathways, and it feels unnatural in the process. When I consider this new information Bible verses which remind us to keep God’s words close and to remember who he says he is, take on a new weight.
Joshua 1:8-9 This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
Psalm 19:13-14 Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins; Let them not rule over me; Then I will be blameless, And I shall be acquitted of great transgression.
14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, my rock, and my Redeemer.
Just as with our physical appearance and health, it is easier to keep our mental health balanced and focused on God when our eyes and ears begin by looking to God. It is a discipline to keep God where he belongs in our thoughts and heart. The younger we are able to start that practice the more embedded the neural pathways become. It will be a habit that will feel odd to stray from.
Proverbs 22:1-6 A good name is to be more desired than great wealth,
Favor is better than silver and gold. The rich and the poor have a common bond,
The Lord is the maker of them all. The prudent sees the evil and hides himself,
But the naive go on, and are punished for it. The reward of humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, honor and life. Thorns and snares are in the way of the perverse;
He who guards himself will be far from them. Train up a child in the way he should go,
Even when he is old he will not depart from it.
When I consider the physical aspect of changing a thought pattern the imagery of a battle is not lost on me. Just as our body experiences pain when we strengthen or tear a muscle, our heart experiences stress when we wrestle with changing a habit. Consider the thought patterns of tearing oneself down. It can feel impossible to see ourselves as the image of Christ when we see only flaws. Still, God calls us his children, and we must accept that truth. We can become our largest roadblock to seeing ourselves as God does when we fight the process of creating new thoughts.