For those just joining, this is part of a series of letters on spiritual growth and maturity. For the last letter, click this link.
“Humanity is not a disease that needs to be cured or a state of deficiency from which we need to escape. The spiritual journey is not intended to make us into angels, cherubim, seraphim, gods, or some other form of spiritual beings. It is intended to help us become all that we, as humans, can be.” David Benner, Soulful Spirituality
“I want a relationship with the Abba of Jesus, who is infinitely compassionate with my brokenness and at the same time an awesome, incomprehensible, and unwieldy Mystery.” Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust
“The foolishness of a man twists his way, And his heart frets against the Lord.” Proverbs 19:3
So how does God go about bringing change? One way is by bringing along the kind of people that would stand in opposition to the preconceived way you think. These people, spiritual fathers and mothers, friends, husbands and wives, all stand as a beacon to our neural networks. The typical pain response mechanisms are triggered in these relationships even though these are not the same people who caused pain in the first place. God begins demonstrating healthy fathering and mothering in himself and in others in order to change the way we think and the very physiology of our mind. He is slowly putting in place a new map for your brain to process life.
“Only by engaging with the Holy Spirit directly and hearing his perspective can I begin to see what God sees and understand my own life in ways that are more in line with the truth.” David Takle
In Matthew 2 Jesus accuses the Pharisees and Sadducees of their way of thinking:
“But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.’” Matthew 3:7-9
He accuses them of having a preconditioned way of thinking about themselves. They figured they were doing alright because they were considered part of Abraham’s family. Jesus goes on to say that claiming Abraham as a father does absolutely nothing for them. These are the ones who are famous for searching the scriptures for the Messiah and missing him when he was right in their midst. Talk about a preconditioned way of thinking!
Jesus makes an interesting comment about their way of thinking in the next verse:
“Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” Matthew 3:10
Remembering previously that a neuron is shaped roughly like a tree, neuroscientists call portions of the neuron that forms the roots on the tree dendrites. These dendrites reach out in turn to other neurons and are one of the conduits through which information flows. The word choice for the dendrite is a very specific. The word dendrite is based on the root Greek word dendron. In Greek, dendron means tree.
Going back to Jesus, when he says, “…the axe is laid to the root of the trees,” the word tree here is dendron. Laying the axe to the root of the tree means our patterns and habits of response dictated by the formation of our brain must change. Jesus is calling for a total change in the Pharisees’ way of thinking. Every way of thinking that does not produce the fruit of God in our lives must be destroyed, it must be “cut down and thrown into the fire.”
“What you think about, you will likely take action on. What you repeatedly take action on becomes a habit.” John Paul Jackson
Why would Paul say: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Romans 12:2).” Because he knew that something had to change about the way we think. There was a time in my life when I literally had to tell my brain to stop. It would spiral out of control. Repeatedly, throughout my day, I had to continue to tell my brain to stop thinking the thoughts it was thinking. I said to myself, “Brain, be quiet. I will not think these thoughts.” Over time, my thinking began to change. But that is only one piece of the puzzle.
We now know that the way our brain is made up is actually like a tree. For your thinking to change you really do need to take an axe to the root of the tree. Our neural networks must experience radical and fundamental change. How does God go about laying the axe to the root of our thinking? By the way he comes to us, both personally and through the relationships in our life. In the next post we’ll talk about key developmental relationships, and how God comes to us in specific ways to bring healing and transformation.