Isn’t it fun to discover how we are created in God’s image? It’s delightful to see how intricately God designed our bodies so that we can interact with Him and each other in a way that’s like Him.
For instance, the fact that we have relational circuitry in our brain that can close down or open up access to our relational brain is a tremendous gift from God. When we sense danger, our body knows that we don’t need those higher skills like creativity, self-reflection, or consistent identity, so access to the relational brain is shut down and we get a huge dose of adrenaline to help us get out of danger. What a welcome gift is the ability to run fast and leave peril behind!
However, when we are in the midst of a conflict with our spouse, coworker, or child, we need access to skills that are available only in the relational brain:
- seeing the other person’s point of view,
- compassion during a disagreement,
- creative problem solving,
- resilience and flexibility,
- recognizing our part in the problem, and
- connecting with God and others more mature than ourselves.
Developing awareness and control of our relational circuits provides access to all our brain’s resources and enables us to share the capacity offered by God and those around us. When we restore our relational circuits with tools like Shalom My Body (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oRy3KeAUIFw) and deliberate appreciation, we begin to see our situation more clearly and respond from our truest self.
Last week a friend and I looked at Psalm 84 and asked God to share some of His thoughts with us. In reading through this psalm from the Passion Translation, I noticed how the psalmist took strength in his connection with God – it’s obvious his relational circuits were fully on.
“When I’m near you my heart and my soul
will sing and worship with my joyful songs of you,
my true source and spring of life! (v. 2b)
How enriched are they who find their strength in the Lord;
within their hearts are the highways of holiness!
6 Even when their paths wind through the dark valley of tears,
they dig deep to find a pleasant pool where others find only pain.
He gives to them a brook of blessing
filled from the rain of an outpouring.
7 They grow stronger and stronger with every step forward,
and the God of all gods will appear before them in Zion. (v. 5-6)
For just one day of intimacy with you is like
a thousand days of joy rolled into one! (v. 10a)
I’d rather stand at the threshold in front of the Gate Beautiful,
ready to go in and worship my God,
than to live my life without you
in the most beautiful palace of the wicked.
11 For the Lord God is brighter than the brilliance of a sunrise!
Wrapping himself around me like a shield,
he is so generous with his gifts of grace and glory.
Those who walk along his paths with integrity
will never lack one thing they need, for he provides it all!
12 O Lord of Heaven’s Armies,
what euphoria fills those who forever trust in you!” (v. 11-12)
When our relational circuits are on, we are able to receive all that God has for us; we will notice and amplify the good things going on around us. God is always present, always willing to provide a “pleasant pool” in our “dark valley of tears,” but when our relational circuits are dim or off, we can’t sense His presence and “gifts of grace and glory.
“How enriched are they who find their strength in the Lord; within their hearts are the highways of holiness!” This sentence brings to mind the new neural pathways that are formed as we stay connected with God and others. The Hebrew literally says, “Roads are in their hearts;” God allows us to build paths to His ways as we tune in to Him.
Have you wondered how we are expected to live as Colossians 1 tells us: “so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God…”? (ESV) God has created us with a relational brain that can live this life as we continually move toward relational connection with Him and our community, choosing to engage with Him about past hurts and current gaps in our maturity and skills. Life with relational circuits on and determination to keep growing can result in a walk worthy of the Lord.
One final passage that comes to mind is Hebrews 12:1-3, where I realize that “Relational Circuits OFF” falls in the category of things that often hinder us. When we focus on Jesus, and see how He chose to endure the cross for the glad-to-be-together joy of life with God, and how He endured tremendous opposition, we can take heart, take a deep breath, and ask for help to be restored to His best for us – faithful, relational living.
“1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
I thank God that we are created in His image as relational beings that can learn to stay connected to Him and others. If you want to look more at the concept of relational circuits, invite some friends and join me at this month’s Online Practice Community Event: Be a Gentle Protector, where we will discuss relational circuits and their part in helping us respond tenderly to each other’s weaknesses.