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Brainwaves and Canyons


Apparently your brainwaves wash over and cut through your cerebral cortex much like melting snow washes over and cuts through the side of a mountain on its way down to the bottom, forming small ruts, then small streams, then gushing rivers, which eventually form deep canyons.

That's what the magazine article said anyway. The kind of repetitive thoughts we think, and our patterns of thinking—both positive and negative—carve deeper and broader pathways through our brain as we age. The danger, say neurologists, is that when you get locked into patterns of thinking that are negative, self-defeating or destructive, you allow your brainwaves to create pathways that are not positive, healthy, or life-giving. You get “stuck” in patterns of negativity. Several years ago my physician was telling me the same thing when we were experiencing some tough months as a family. She gave me some ways to change the way I think, which in turn, over time, would carve new pathways in my brain that were healthier. This is not a new idea. It’s just the scientific explanation for what the Bible has taught us for centuries.

For example, the Apostle Paul writes in his Letter to the Romans, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

He writes similarly in his Letter to the Ephesians, “throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life…. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.”

Now obviously Paul is not talking about brain waves and pathways in our brains. That’s a very recent scientific frame of reference that was not available to him. Paul’s frame of reference was theological. Spiritual. But I think Paul was onto the same idea. Here's why. In each of these instances (and there are several others) Paul is focused on the outward behavior of a person who becomes a new person (“creation”) in Jesus Christ, not on their brainwave patterns. But underlying each of these admonitions for behavior change is a deeper, initial change in attitude… a change in the way one thinks. We know from psychology that what we think and believe determines how we feel and behave. (“Fake it ‘til you make it”) Easier said than done.

Changing our behavior begins with a change in what we believe and how we think, which Paul says is accomplished by nothing less than the power of God (the Holy Spirit) acting upon one’s life. Becoming this new person, which is a gift of grace from God, is a process, not a one-time event. In other words, it takes time to grow into this new identity. Which helps explain how the deeply rutted, carved-up mountainsides of our cerebral cortexes can possibly be remade into a different-looking landscape over time. What other power could completely transform the landscape of a canyon-carved mountainside?

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