Have you heard of the First 5 app? You can use it as your alarm or you can open it when you wake, and it gives you a five minute devotion so that you can start your day out right with God. I absolutely love it and highly recommend it.
On Tuesday, Lysa Terkeurst wrote a devotion called “Getting Unstuck From My Thinking Rut” that really struck a chord with me. (I really suggest downloading the app and reading the full text, but I’ll paraphrase below.)
The devotional was based on Romans 12:2.
Lysa said that the end of Romans 12 serves as a guide of the attitudes and actions that a Christian should follow. It’s all well and good until the first time someone ticks us off. We can be tempted to look at this image of a perfect Christian and think we shouldn’t bother trying.
But Paul gives us “a key to being able to live a life that is pleasing to God. And it has to do with our minds.”
This is where I got really hooked: “Brain research shows that every conscious thought we have is recorded on our internal hard drive, known as the cerebral cortex. Each thought scratches the surface much like an Etch-A-Sketch. When we have the same thought again, the line of the original thought is deepened, causing what’s called a memory trace.”
With each repetition the trace deepens and when an emotion is tied to the trace, it grows exponentially. “This is true with every negative thought we attach to ourselves” and others.
It was like a lightbulb went on.
To say my sister and I did not get along growing up would be a massive understatement. We bickered through our elementary and middle school years, but the true blow outs came in high school. As time went our our fights came bigger and faster because we were not reacting to whatever slight had just occurred, but to all past fights as well.
I knew that even in high school, but I felt powerless to stop it.
Years passed. I left for college and so did she. I got married and graduated. She changed schools and found a passion for children’s ministry. And due to my mom’s constant influence, we kept in touch and became tentative friends.
We now call each other to catch up, go out to lunch, shop together, and do all the other things that friends do. We enjoy each other’s company. We’ve rewritten much of our memory trace, but as we found out a few weeks ago, it’s definitely still there.
We had a simple miscommunication that escalated way out of proportion in a matter of minutes. At least on my end, I was falling back into those mind patterns I’d developed so long ago. We ended the phone call, both upset, and I burst into tears.
Though we’ve both changed and grown in so many ways, I allowed our disagreement to act as an emotional trigger, which shot me back to those high school days and my high school reactions.
That’s not healthy and it’s not fair.
So now that I’m armed with this knowledge, when those past thoughts and feelings dredge up, I’m going to make a concerted effort to remind myself that those are false ways of thinking. Instead, I will replace those thoughts with new and positive ones.
We’ve accomplished so much good in our relationship and I will choose to focus on where we can go instead of where we’ve been.
Is there anyone in your life with whom you’re allowing past thoughts to dictate your present actions and reactions? Do you need to reexamine your relationship with a coworker, sibling, parent, child, or spouse? What negative memory traces have you tied to them? Will you join me in my pledge to make a conscious effort to replace those negative thoughts with positive thought patterns?
I’d love to hear your story!