This post is by Jen Stanbro.
My son, James, has always struggled with math. Actually, I need to amend that. Math was merely a trigger. What James has actually struggled with is his response to hard things. And life is full of hard things, so math quickly became a microcosm of sorts for us.
Helping him with the actual equations was the easy part. Helping him change his mindset was the real journey.
The first thing I noticed was that, as soon as James encountered a piece of information he didn’t readily understand, or a task that was difficult for him, the words he would speak were utterly defeatist. Not only did this lead him to giving up, it also caused a heaping amount of self-condemnation, neither of which I could rightly tolerate given how much I love this human.
In Matthew 12:34, Jesus reminds us that what comes out of our mouths is merely a reflection of what’s in our hearts, or more specifically, the thoughts in our minds. So that’s where we began.
It starts with a thought. You choose whether to reject or embrace that thought, (2 Cor. 10:5, taking every thought captive to obey Christ). From your choice, comes the emotion. Does this thought bring you joy? Frustration? Depression? And then, God in His transcendent creativity connects your thoughts and emotions to your physical state. Positive emotions release energizing chemicals into your body. Conversely, negative emotions release chemicals that deplete you. So every time my kiddo would think a harmful (and I’ll add untrue) thought about himself or his situation, it would lead him to a mental and physical type of paralysis.
Enter neural plasticity, aka hope!
Neural plasticity can be defined as the ability of neural networks to change through growth and reorganization. The brain is essentially rewired to function in some way that differs from how it previously functioned.
God made us moldable. Changeable. He made us to grow!
Around this time, God had seen beautifully fit to bring a book called, “The Talent Code,” by Daniel Coyle, into our lives. The scientific details get a bit technical, explaining the way a brain signal travels through a circuit, but here’s how I broke it down for James.
Whenever you encounter something that’s so hard, it has the ability to overwhelm you, to cripple you, imagine that you are that signal in your brain standing in front of two bridges (the circuits). One bridge carries you with a negative mindset that sabotages all of your efforts. The second bridge carries you with a positive mindset which empowers you to keep moving forward toward accomplishment.
But here’s the thing: because you’ve used the Negative Mindset Bridge so many times, it is boss. That thing is made of steel and covered by a well-insulated tunnel (the technical term is myelin), so it’s super easy to get across it fast. In contrast, the Positive Mindset Bridge doesn’t get much use. It’s pretty rickety, with missing planks and rope railing. It makes total sense that you’d choose the stronger, easier path. Even when you want to attempt the Positive Mindset Bridge, it takes a great deal more mental effort to get across.
I can tell you it is worth the effort.
You see, the more you choose the Positive Mindset Bridge, the stronger it’ll become. Support beams and reinforced steel will replace the ropes and planks. A nice thick insulated tunnel will form so that no matter the storm outside, you can make it across easily.
In essence, the ability to direct your thoughts toward positive and productive truth will become instinctual. And here’s the kicker, there will be less and less competition from the negative bridge, because as you render it obsolete, it’ll decay, no longer posing a viable option for your thoughts to travel.
James and I have been at this for a while now and it’s amazing how far we’ve both come. The best part is that the Lord has not left us to journey on our own. His chain-breaking blood and empowering Spirit have blessed every single step.
Do you have a mindset bridge that needs to be rendered obsolete, and another fortified in its place? Ask the Lord to help you apply His truth, His patience, and His power. And then lean on Him as you fight to cross that new bridge. It won’t be a fight forever. His victory is over you in Christ Jesus!
Jen Stanbro is the singer/songwriter behind the Hello Mornings podcast theme song, “God Day.” She loves when truth cancels out the lies and love overcomes fear. Her heart aches for the oppressed and marginalized, and she seeks to reignite God’s holy fire in the hearts of His people to love courageously like Jesus.
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