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Posts Tagged ‘patterns of behavior’

As human beings we are creatures of habit.  It normally begins with a pattern of thought, which often evokes a specific pattern of emotion, which generally results in a certain pattern of behavior.  In and of itself, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but even a relatively healthy pattern can sour over time.  Just as we have a natural tendency to adopt these patterns, we also seem inclined to get stuck inside of them.  Unwittingly they begin to shape our concept of reality and of how we fit within it.  For too many of us, the pattern of our lives repeats itself over and over again.  Given enough time, we can easily begin to derive a sense of security (and maybe even identity) from our pattern; and if we’re not careful, we can quickly become a slave to it.

 

Patterns tend to breed rituals, and rituals tend to spawn religion, which is what causes us to rage against anyone or anything that might suggest we need to alter our pattern.  I remember working in a bar years ago, watching people cry in their beer about how terrible their lives were, only to have them curse the bartender who dared propose that maybe they should make a change.  I’ve heard it said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting it to turn out differently.  Based on that measure, there would seem to be a good many of us battling this affliction.

 

Assuming that all of that is true, it should then come as little surprise that “repentance” is a significant tenet of the Christian life.  While many still associate that word with the idea of being sorry or regretting their actions, it actually refers to a change of mind or a change of direction (i.e. a change of pattern).  But more than that, I don’t believe that God would simply have us trade our old bad sinful pattern for a shiny new sanctified one.  I sense that the life He’s authored for us is meant to be filled with growth and spontaneity and wonder; none of which happens when you consistently march in circles (even when those steps are taken within the walls of the temple).  Indeed, the security and familiarity that accompanies repetition would seem to be the antithesis of faith.

 

To my mind, one of the great flaws of religion across the ages has been its propensity to create a pattern and then to spend all of its resources trying to defend and preserve it from change.  I believe that one of the reasons the Lord sent His Holy Spirit to dwell within us was to free us from the bondage that comes with being trapped within a rigid pattern.

 

While I’m not suggesting that there shouldn’t be a certain consistency within the life of a true believer (which could rightfully be described as a pattern), I am saying that if we are not diligent, adherence to our pattern can take precedence over the dynamic, real time relationship that the Lord intended for us to have with Him.  When that happens, it not only impacts the believer, but everyone that the Lord means to touch through them.

 

As I have endeavored to walk with the Lord over the years, I have found that He consistently challenges the presuppositions that are so often used to prop up my pattern.  It’s not always that what I have supposed is necessarily wrong, but at best it is incomplete.  Ultimately, I need to guard my heart against the complacency that so naturally accompanies a pattern.

 

In other words, am I really listening for His voice or do I believe that I know Him so well that I already know what He’d say?  I sense that this is part of what Jesus was saying when He admonished us to come as little children (Matt. 18:3).  Don’t come as an accomplished veteran, who is filled with his own ideas & experiences.  Come as a child, who genuinely relies on his Father for guidance.  Even for the seasoned follower, that is a pattern worth adopting.

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