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Archive for November, 2011

Renewing of the Mind

Do you ever wonder what the authors of the Bible actually knew or understood as they were writing it? How many of the universal mysteries did David actually know he was talking about? Or Moses when he chronicled the creation of the world? Or even the authors who gave us glimpses of Christ in the Old Testament? How much did they comprehend of what they wrote, or at what level did they comprehend it?

One of my favorites of these examples is from Romans 12 where Paul says, “…but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” For many years I looked at the verse in a form primarily of abstinence. Don’t conform to the world and God needs to change your desires so you don’t want the ways of the world. The idea of the mind being renewed was intangible. God just changed you and that was that. Well, the simple premise of God changing us is still valid, but in recent years I have thrilled at understanding a bit more of the complexity of the process.

What Paul describes as “the renewing of your mind” is a literal, tangible occurance that happens in your brain. Some scholars have postulated that the brain forms neurological pathways up to a certain age, and then next to nothing new will be formed after that. You are stuck with what you have. Not a very encouraging theory, if you ask me!

Other scientists have done tests and, in my opinion, emphatically proved that the brain is a continually changing landscape. Some tests showed that real estate in the brain that was believed to be function specific could actually be taken over by a new function if the old one ceased to exist. Essentially, our brains are incredibly effecient machines. The basic concept is that “neurons that fire together, wire together”. This means that as long as the neurons keep firing together, the pathway will continue to exist. If they are not used, they will fall away and that space can be taken over for something else.

So, think of some area of your life that has changed. You used to think and respond a certain way and through healing and growth you think completely differently now. Or, we often refer to emotional “buttons” or “triggers” where the environment can stimulate a particular response from us. You get those buttons resolved and people can press that button all they want, and would you believe it, the wires have been disconnected. Literally!

We all know this is a process, or at least those of us who are real with ourselves. There are times when God rewires our brain in instant or overnight, but more often than not, we have at least two steps. The first is the healing itself – dealing with toxic emotions, wrong belief systems, lies, and so on. Sometimes the steps will happen simultaneously, but often, the second step happens over a period of time afterwards. This is the changing of your neurological pathways – teaching your brain to wire together different neurons. You have habits you formed with your old way of thinking. Those habits have to be “unhabited” (or uninhabited!) and new habits formed. How many times have you caught yourself in the middle of a thought or reaction and said, “wait! I don’t have to do that anymore!” That’s your brain beginning to fire along that well-used highway, and you are saying “no, we aren’t going there. This highway is going to grow over with grass and weeds, and we will build a new one somewhere else!” A new pathway will form. The frequency and intensity of your use will reinforce it, and it becomes the new six-lane highway.

Paul is talking about a literal change in your brain! “Renewing your mind” is exactly what is happening. This brings me to such awe of God and immense gratitude that the scholars who said the brain can’t change were flat wrong. Our Creator is far too wise and far-reaching in His creative strategy. He knew our physical brains would need to change with the peregrinations of our minds and spirits. Our God is a wonderous God, a majestic, beautiful creation is our brain. Understanding science only makes this picture even more extraordinary!

But I still can’t help but wonder, what did Paul know???

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