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Plastic Fantastic

I’ve been thinking about how to follow through on a subject I promised to write about months ago: Fear. I had got as far as wondering if the fear of God is the only legitimate fear a Christian should have. But then I got blown off course, can’t remember how exactly. It seemed so negative when I came back to it. I think God agreed, because this verse popped into mind.

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.  2 Timothy 1 v7

The context of this little gem is a letter of encouragement Paul wrote to Timothy, a young leader of the early church in Ephesus. It certainly encouraged me to take my eyes off the problem and see what tools I had to deal with it instead. Power, love and self-discipline. But what to do with them?

About two weeks ago I learned a great word. Neuroplasticity. Not an obvious one for me. My scientific illiteracy comes from a long history of neglect, helped by using school science lessons for the discipline of daydreaming. But I met it in an article with other words short enough to keep my attention and long enough to seem credible.

Neuroplasticity is, as far as I understand it (see above excuse), the ability of the brain to rewire itself. For example, around an injury site in the brain, the various electrochemical processes that would have taken place there simply find new pathways around the affected area. I was talking about this to a friend at church, as you do, when she pointed me in the direction of Caroline Leaf, a Christian neuropathologist who relates the physical brain and the way it works to the Bible.

I have a neighbour who is a neuroscientist and not religious at all. I asked her about it, with some nervousness, 1) because I’m still shallow enough not to want to look a fool in front of a proper scientist/new friend/neighbour and 2) because I want it to be true, for God’s amazing design to be visible under a microscope, so to speak. So I handed her the book and asked her about neuroplasticity. She confirmed it was definitely true, even gave me examples.

Why am I so excited about this? Well, for a couple of reasons. The season I’m in, to coin some christianese, is a bit dry and dusty. The amazing truths that used to get me all fired up don’t seem to be hitting home. When I look back on earlier times in my life I seemed more, um, good, more connected, consistent, more certain about how to live my faith out. I was readily quoting scripture, encouraging others, praying at the drop of a hat, all that. I’m still praying – mostly short, sharp, ‘don’t let me say/do something ugly now’ kinds of prayers. I’m still quoting scripture, more to myself than anyone else, to help me mean those prayers, and yes I’m having to encourage myself quite a lot when it seems like nothing is changing.

Many of us who call ourselves the church are not living spectacular Christian lives feeding orphans or setting up schools or converting our neighbours or anything remotely like it. We may even be quietly avoiding difficult conversations, buying too much stuff, gossiping with our friends and sniggering quietly at the back of church like bored teenagers.

The point is, neuroplasticity tells me I am not only able to change, but designed for change. In both directions. The choice is mine. Each time I decide, with my mind, to go against my negativity, I am creating physiological, tangible change in my own brain. Even better, the Bible tells me that God didn’t make me feek and weable but able to choose and bring about changes. This verse bears repeating.

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.  2 Timothy 1 v7

Breathe out, people. We are fearfully and wonderfully made.

2 thoughts on “Plastic Fantastic

  1. This reminds me of another scripture…Romans 12:2a “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Perhaps neuroplacticity is a scriptural concept!

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