“Here we go ‘round the mulberry bush, the mulberry bush, the mulberry bush. . .”
Do you remember singing that song as a kid? I sang it with my friends while holding hands and dancing around in a circle.
The faster we went, the dizzier we got until we’d collapse on the ground in a fit of giggles.
Spinning around like that is fun as a child, but not so much when you’re an adult!
Do you ever feel like you’re life is spinning around and around the same issues and struggles? The details may change but at its core, you’re living out the same drama over and over again.
Randy had a lifelike the kids dancing around in a circle. He kept falling down and getting up to live out the same destructive patterns over and over.
Randy was 46 years old and looking for work again. From Randy’s point of view hehas had just one string of bad luck after another.
He joined a recovery group at his church five years ago and that helped him get sober. But his “bad luck” seemed to continue.
Since he got sober he went through his second divorce, got fired from two jobs, lost his license, and is estranged from his teenage children.
Patterns of the Mind
Romans 12:2 “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…”
Paul not only tells us in this verse to avoid the pattern of the world, but even more importantly, he connects those patterns to our minds.
Patterns are not rooted in repeated behaviors. They are formed in our thoughts.
So if you have a pattern of behavior, you really have a pattern of thought.
And according to Paul, the way to change an ungodly pattern of behavior(,) is to change your thoughts.
Let’s look at Randy again as an example.
Randy had a pattern of employment that usually lasted 2-3 years. At first he was a gung-ho, model employee. He arrived on time, pitched in to help others when needed, and was conscientious about the quality of his work.
Then he would begin complaining that people didn’t appreciate him, his boss was unfair, and the customers were rude. Before long he’d be fired.
Randy thought he just had bad luck in job after job, always ending up with bosses who were too demanding and didn’t trust or respect him.
If Randy were to look at the pattern of his mind, rather than the pattern of his behavior, he might notice a few things
For one, he might notice that if his boss didn’t keep giving him praise, he would think that meant the boss didn’t like him.
Convinced the boss was against him, he would start to speak negatively about him to other employees. If others agreed, then he would feel justified in slacking off a little, coming in a little later, giving less than 100%.
And so just like that, the slide begins; it culminates with another pink slip and then out the door.
Know Your Patterns
2 Corinthians 13:5, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.
The only way to know your patterns of thought is to do exactly what Paul says to the Corinthians- examine yourself.
We’ve been locked into our destructive patterns a long time- they feel like they are just part of who we are. But that isn’t true.
Remember, our patterns are rooted in how we think. But what makes something a pattern, is that you no longer have to think about what you’re doing… you just do it!
So the first thing to do is to think about your thinking.
One way to do this is to journal your thoughts and feelings regularly. Overtime this can reveal those patterns of reaction and emotion that trigger our downward spirals.
Another helpful tool is to seek professional counseling. A skilled counselor will use thoughtful questioning to help you dig deeper into your motivations, thoughts, and emotions.
If you are in a recovery program like Celebrate Recovery, using a sponsor to share your struggles with will help you identify blind spotswhich is also useful.
If you’ve never done a Step study with Celebrate Recovery, find a group you can join to go through the four workbooks that guide you through the twelve steps of the program.
Whatever tool you use, the important thing to remember is that it takes intention, honesty, and courage to identify our patterns.
Creating New Patterns
Randy began to think about his thinking after joining a bible study class at his church The class was reading Joyce Meyer’s book Battlefield of the Mind.
He began to realize how his negative thinking spiraled out of control, how he accepted it as reality without ever questioning if it was true.
This small understanding was the beginning of renewing his mind.
Joyce Meyer shares some insights about our minds and how our thinking affects our lives in this audio of one of her teachings Think About Your Thinking
As Joyce shares in this clip, it’s important that we replace the ungodly pattern of our minds with godly ones based on truth.
Truth is found in the Word of God, the Bible.
We are not fully in control of our own minds. Some of our thoughts are protective reactions against fear or hurt.
Some thoughts are patterns passed on by our parents, the culture around us, or what we see and hear.
And some thoughts are from Satan, meant to plant lies and half-truths into our thinking.
He tried it with Eve in the Garden; he tried it with Jesus in the desert.
It doesn’t really matter where a thought pattern comes from. Whether from ourselves or from Satan, the solution is the same. Truth.
Jesus countered Satan’s temptations with truth from the Word of God. We can do the same.
Many Christian counseling and recovery programs have tools that identify key truths from the Bible about who we are in Christ.
There are two tools that I’ve found very helpful in my own recovery.
One is a list that first identifies 34 lies we often believe about ourselves, the 34 truths that counter those lies, and the scriptures that support that truth.
The second is a list from Celebrate Recovery of emotions we feel. It’s very useful when you’re having trouble identifying exactly what it is you’re feeling or thinking!
You can download these two tools here.
At CrossRoads Freedom Center, we work with men who have a desire to transform their lives. Often, they have no idea that the work is really about changing their minds.
If you are ready to create new patterns in your life, check us out at www.crossroadsfreedomcenter.com. We’d love to be a part of your journey!