Let's talk about neurons for a minute. I know, fun topic right?
But seriously. Let's talk about them. Did you know, we have 100 billion neurons in our brain? There's also some studies that suggest our neurons can be re-birthed throughout our lives.
Our brains have three different types of neurons. Sensory neurons, motor neurons, and interneurons. While all those sound super awesome, we're going to focus on the latter, interneurons.
So, What Do Interneurons Even Do Anyway?
I'm going to give you a very brief bit of background on what neurons actually do in our brain and why they are so important for renewing our minds.
Scientists believe that neurons are the most diverse type of cell that exists in our body. Neurons are little message-carrying cells and they each have their own function and abilities. They communicate with each other and make connections in our brain, which in turn, shapes how we think, feel, and act.
Each neuron in our brain is given a specific task and place to "hang out." They then communicate with each other through neurotransmitters, or chemicals, and relay information back and forth amongst themselves. The information that is exchanged through neurons, back and forth, back and forth, creates a pattern of thought, feeling or action, that is more easily established the next time the same, or similar, scenario happens.
Scientists call this neural circuits. I like to think of it as a dirt road. The more often you drive the same truck down a dirt road, the more of a track, or "rut" will be left behind. Neurons work the same exact way.
From birth, our parents or relatives or friends treat us in a certain way, and patterns begin to immerge in our brain, good or bad. We begin to believe certain things about ourselves because of how we are treated, and those tire tracks become deeper and more ingrained as time goes on.
Why Is This Important?
I think it's vital to know how God made our brain to work in order to truly understand what he meant when he told us to renew our minds in the Bible.
"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."
Simply put, renew means to restore or replenish; to make, say or do again; to revive or reestablish; to recover; to restore to a former state; make new or as if new again. So there is a lot that goes into this word! And God calls us to renew our mind, which means, it is something WE can do.
When I was about 12 years old, I decided to make bread one evening while my mom was working, knowing it would be a huge help to her to not have to do it the next morning. My mom was superwoman, she cared for us and the house during the day, and then come evening, would go work in a doctor's office filing the days' transcripts.
I knew she had a lot on her plate, and I wanted to help. I got everything out to make the bread, including the wheat, which we ground ourselves. I put it in the grinder, and I forgot to put the lid on tight. After I turned it on, the wheat went in, and the flour came out everywhere. All over the kitchen.
I was devastated. I started cleaning it up, but not before my dad came upstairs and saw the mess. He was so angry, and he yelled at me pretty severely for making a mess. I got the mess cleaned up in the kitchen, and abandoned the bread. I can't say I felt like finishing my project after that.
Do you know what I wasn't able to clean up from that evening? The internal mess that my dad's response created in my mind. I felt so defeated after that. A pattern of thought immerged from the things my dad said to me, and I believed them. Who doesn't when you're a child? We don't usually have the ability to reason through the things that someone is saying to us when we're young.
So let's imagine our dirt ruts for a second. My dad in his anger, said some hurtful things to me. A truck went down a road in my mind. Now, given how emotionally damaging the words were in that moment, I would say it was a pretty heavy truck.
After that day, I began to replay those words in my mind, over and over. I made that pattern deeper and deeper, and Satan made sure he brought those memories to my mind quite often. He wanted me to believe that I was a failure, that I was horrible at cooking, that I was a screw up, a good for-nothing kid. And that rut became a gosh-darn ditch in my brain.
Fast forward to when I started dating my now-husband. We were in the kitchen making something together one day and I had all of these thoughts swirling in my brain that I wasn't good at cooking, that I was horrible in the kitchen....etc.
Those dark thoughts led me to make an easy mistake while I was doing something. I couldn't even tell you what it was. Mikael reacted to it, and I burst into tears. I wasn't even sure where the response was coming from or why I was reacting the way I was.
At the time, I wasn't even aware of the dark thoughts that had gotten me to make the mistake in the first place. My negative pattern of thought was so well established, that I didn't even notice when I went down the road and thought the things I thought. Disconcerting right? We can be so blithely unaware to the negative things that are affecting us on a daily basis. But the people around us feel those negative affects. Our kids and our husband, and our friends are all affected by our negative patterns of thought.
Back to my story, my then-boyfriend and I had a very intense conversation that night. I wish I could say it was a wonderful conversation about this thing that had happened to me when I was a child and we were able to work through it all right then and there. But that wasn't the case. It was a pretty ugly argument about why I had reacted the way I had, why he had reacted the way he did...and I don't remember anything being solved for a little while.
I went home that evening and I cried in my pillow, and asked God, what is wrong with me?? Why am I like this? What the heck happened?
A few weeks later, after praying and crying and wondering what my issue was, God recalled this incident to my mind that had happened when I was a child. And suddenly, things clicked into place. I went to Mikael's place that evening, feeling more vulnerable than I had in a long time, and with tears in my eyes I explained this story from my childhood. Mikael was wonderful. He hugged me and let me cry, and promised to react better in the future.
In that moment, something happened. I began to heal from a childhood trauma. I realize that in the grand scheme of traumas, mine was minor. But we can't ignore that no matter how large or small a trauma is, it still affects us and our emotions. Patterns are born from the smallest of traumas, and we need to recognize them, and learn to renew our minds in those areas.
After that day, I would be so anxious to cook in the kitchen with Mikael, but I did it anyway. And every time we cooked together, I reminded myself that I wasn't a bad cook, that I was good at so many things, that I was creative and helpful, and without realizing it, I was changing my pattern of thinking.
Renewing Our Mind, Is Just Changing Our Thoughts!
That's literally all there is to it! There's no magic formula to the verse. All it is, is taking a negative pattern or thought, and testing it against the word of God.
Instead of believing a lie that I was a horrible screw up who couldn't cook, I began to see myself the way God sees me. I reminded myself that I was creative, that I enjoyed cooking and baking, and that I was loved no matter if I screwed up or not! Making a mistake doesn't define my self worth, only what Jesus says about who I am defines me and my worth. If He says that we are created in His image, and He is a creator, then doesn't that make me creative?? I began to think this way.
I began to see myself as a good cook, a creative person with ideas on how to make dishes taste better, and I began to have FUN! I used to love cooking before the incident happened. And I began to discover, that I enjoyed it again.
Without even realizing it, I was renewing my mind. Don't get me wrong, Satan still brought to mind this incident when I was a kid, and at every moment, lied to me about who I was. But I started learning how to capture those thoughts in the middle of the pattern, and by changing the way I thought about myself by seeing myself through God's eyes, I redirected my neuropathways into a new way of thinking. I made new patterns of thought, built on the foundation of who God says I am.
"For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace."
I began the journey of taking my thoughts captive and renewing my mind that day in the kitchen with Mikael. I had a LOT of other thoughts that needed changing, and it took quite some time. I'm still renewing certain things all the time. But each time I change a pattern of thinking, it gets easier. And each time that I change a negative pattern of thought to the truth of God's Word, the flesh is put death and my mind and body are filled with life!
To be spiritually minded, just means that we focus on Jesus. And the more I focus on Jesus, the more that peace fills my heart, my soul, and my mind. Anxiety dissipates, and my whole body relaxes, because I am at peace.
"You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You."
Back To Those Neurons...
Remember when I said that neurons create a pattern of thought, feeling or action? My negative thought process on cooking led me to react very poorly, by crying and being an emotional wreck. I believed horrible things about myself because of my thoughts. My thoughts led me to feeling overwhelmed, anxious, angry, hurt, and sick to my stomach. Those feelings led to my actions. I had an outburst of emotions, and that led to a few anxiety filled weeks with Mikael, and many intense conversations.
But our neural circuits (as scientists refer to it) can be changed and renewed (as God calls it). I believe God calls it renewing our mind because he knew there would be thoughts or patterns in our mind that would need to be restored to a new way of thinking. He knew we would need to revive or reestablish a new way of thinking and patterns of thoughts. He called it renew because it's a new way of thinking, a new way of believing.
What Do You Need To Rewire & Renew?
There are still certain thoughts that I have wired in my head, but I am working on pulling those strongholds down. Every time we bring our thoughts captive and change our patterns of thought, we shatter the strongholds that Satan has on our lives. Our thought pattern changes and we find that we don't react to certain scenarios the same way we would have in the past. We have more internal peace, and external joy that can be felt by others. People will begin to notice the change in you, and will enjoy it. You'll enjoy it!
If you're beginning this process, or in the middle of renewing certain thoughts, I want to encourage you to keep going. When you start out, it's hard.
I can't lie and say this process for me was a wonderful, easy-breezy experience. It wasn't. It took months of retraining certain patterns of thinking before those strongholds were finally pulled down. And the whole time, Satan attacked me and lied to me every single chance he could. He hates it when we're taking something away from him.
Remaining stuck in our muddy ruts is what he wants us to do. But mud is yucky, and dirty, and filthy, and I was tired of living in my own filth. If you are too, then don't let him deceive you into quitting before you receive your breakthrough. God always comes through for those whose minds are fixed on Him, because He is faithful. (2 Thessalonians 3:3)
And just remember, Satan doesn't attack someone who isn't doing something meaningful for the Kingdom of God. If you're being attacked, that means you are doing something right!
So push on! And remember who you are! You are loved! You are holy! You are righteous! You are a saint! You are chosen by God most high! Hold fast to these truths and let's rewire our brains by renewing our patterns of thinking. Here's to a healthier, happier, more joyful, future you.