Posted by: JennyRain | December 8, 2009

What are you chewing on?

Or perhaps I should ask, “What is chewing on you?”

I don’t know about you, but my brain is like a mini-Intel processor that never shuts off. Because of this, I have found that if I do not start my day with meditative prayer and make an effort to read and digest scripture it is not long before my mind begins its own warp cycle into intellectual overdrive.

Romans 12:2 in the NIV says: Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

During a particularly difficult season in my life in 2001, God taught me the truth and power of this scripture in a very real and personal way.

In the late 90’s, I endured two years of an abusive relationship. Because of this, my body had literally re-wired itself to become hyper-vigilant to any anticipated relationship-pain.

Within weeks of getting to know new people, I would begin steeling myself for the inevitable pain and suffering. My brain all-too-readily filtered every interaction with individuals through the lens of what I call “protectionism” – or my self-protective wall.

Because I expected others to hurt me emotionally, verbally and physically, I built a metaphorical and literal perimeter that separated me from others from the very minute of meeting them.

From the beginning of every relationship, I looked for (and usually found) behaviors that indicated that they could cause me pain. Any type of anger another person displayed indicated they might hurt me physically or emotionally. No matter what was said or done by the people around me – because I was filtering it dysfunctionally – I responded in an unhealthy manner.

A snowball in hades had more of a chance of survival than I gave other people when they attempted to become my friend!

My mind became so good at its self-protectionism that eventually I could have an entire relationship in twenty-four hours or less. I thought that was efficient, but in reality, I was being chewed up from the inside out by unresolved pain and trauma. 

God in His ultimate wisdom reached down into my pain and began to heal me through activating His word in my very being.

From the time I woke up in the morning, until the time I walked into work, God literally had me memorizing pages of scripture. I used to hang the pages on my mirrors at home, on the glass doors of my shower, on my refrigerator, my microwave, and I even had a little flip book that I took on the drive to work just in case I got stuck in traffic.

For two hours every morning I was literally drenched by God’s word. It was the first thing I saw when I woke up and the last thing I read when I went to bed at night.

After watching me for several weeks, my  mom determined I had completely lost it.

“Honey, you need a counselor,” my mom said, “do you want me to find you someone? I can help you find one. Seriously, think about seeing a counselor – I think it would really help you. You’ve really been through a lot.”

She knew the trauma I had just experienced and she was aware that I needed help. My entire family knew.

 But I kept on with my scripture soaking time every morning and ignored my mom’s advice. The more I learned, the more I wanted to learn. The more scripture that soaked into me, the more peace and freedom from anxiety I felt.

I eventually began to realize that thirty-minutes of getting the Word in my brain was making more of an impact than almost a decade of self-help books and secular counseling.

Chewing on scripture was the only thing that stopped the world from chewing on me.

Years later I learned that repeated trauma actually changes your neural networks.

Though the article below talks more to trauma experienced in the younger years, researchers now believe that the brain continues to develop and form throughout life (a theory that was refuted for years), which means that trauma at any stage of our lives can have a devastating impact on our actual physiological beings.

All experience changes the brain – good experiences like piano lessons and bad experiences like living through a tornado as it destroys your home. This is so because the brain is designed to change in response to patterned, repetitive stimulation. And the stimulation associated with fear and trauma changes the brain…. Another set of neural systems that become sensitized by repetitive stressful experiences are the catecholamine systems including the dopaminergic and noradrenergic systems. These key neurochemical systems become altered following traumatic stress. The result is a cascade of associated changes in attention, impulse control, sleep, fine motor control and other functions mediated by the catecholamines. Because these catecholamines and their target regions in the brain also mediate a variety of other emotional, cognitive and motor functions, sensitization of these systems by repetitive re-experiencing of the trauma leads to dysregulation in many functions. Traumatic events impact the multiple areas of the brain that respond to the threat… and create altered neural systems that influence future functioning.

In order to heal (i.e., alter or modify trauma), therapeutic interventions must activate those portions of the brain that have been altered by the trauma. (1)

In other words, our mind and body reflects the world in which we find ourselves. If that world is characterized by threat, chaos, unpredictability, fear and trauma, the brain will reflect that by altering the development of the neural systems involved in the stress and fear response.

God in His infinite wisdom and redemption of me KNEW this and so He created an intervention that would keep my brain chewing on scripture every morning. In doing this my brain was literally “re-wired” – dysfunctional neural networks re-programmed so that I could adopt healthier ways of thinking.

I did eventually enter counseling (and believe very strongly in the efficacy of trauma counseling from licensed Christian counselors), but it was years after God had done the initial “rewiring activity” in my neural networks. I do not know if I would have had the distress tolerance required to survive the counseling that I participated in without the initial work that God did with me using His word.

This simple act of chewing on scripture daily renewed my mind and changed my life and gave me a love of God’s heart revealed through His word that has been a constant in my life. I am so grateful.

…fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. (Romans 12.2 MSG)

…be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you]. (Romans 12.2 AMP)

 

Perry, B.D. Traumatized children: How childhood trauma influences brain development. In: The Journal of the California Alliance for the Mentally Ill 11:1, 48-51, 2000

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Responses

  1. Jenny, THANK YOU for this post! I can’t tell you how much your blog is helping me with a similar situation. God Bless You! Pam

    • Yay God and Yay Pam 🙂 I’m soooo glad God is using it 🙂 Praying that God blesses you today in the midst of your circumstances. Blessings to you sister!

      • You are His blessing to me today! We met at the last TTF Advance at the end. Do you have a personal email address I can correspond to you with? Thanks! Pam


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