[Note: I am not a trained clinician, so what I share in this post is from my own experience. Please do not take my words as being proscriptive! I’m sharing what God has revealed to me from a perspective of gratitude first and foremost, but also in the hope that these words may serve as an encouragement to someone else. Thank you!]
Today, I’m grateful for the deep work that the Lord has been doing in me to reveal some of the destructive and toxic patterns that have existed in my life. Understand that this is still an ongoing process, and – by God’s grace – I continue to learn something new each day.
You see, we live in a world of patterns – traffic patterns, patterns in our attire, even patterns in our music and art. The world would be absolute chaos without patterns to help us sift through the reality that confronts us each day.
However, sometimes the enemy creeps into our lives – through our past wounds, present difficulties, and/or an unclear future – and plants the seeds for unhealthy relationship and thought patters in our lives. Then these seeds sprout, continue to grow, and bear fruit (which create even more destructive patterns). It becomes a wicked cycle, and if we’re not aware of our patterns, then we are destined to repeat them (and if you don’t believe them, read the Old Testament!). Even with awareness, we still make mistakes and fall into our old ways sometimes, but the key is that we are aware of our misstep, and take swift action to address the situation.
From my experience, the only way to identify, address, and change unhealty patterns in our lives is to ask the Lord to reveal them, and watch how He works. In retrospect, I can see that God clearly worked through several people who pointed out and prayed over some of the unhealty patterns that had developed in my life. While it wasn’t easy to hear this feedback, I’m grateful for it, because I could now be on the lookout for these patterns, too.
How did I know that I was stuck in an unhealthy pattern (or series of patterns)? For me, there seemed to be a cycle of pain and mistreatment at the hands of others (against whom I had done no harm) that utterly confounded me. Each time I’d get through it, and it seemed like the situation repeated itself with new people, and slightly different circumstances. Finally, a dear friend of mine (and trained MFT) asked me about it rather pointedly, noting, “Do you see any patterns in your life?”
At first, I had no idea what she was talking about, if I was honest. All I knew was that I was in pain, and I wanted the sadness and hurt to pass – and quickly, too. I was weary in body, mind, and spirit, and the last thing that I wanted to do was start analyzing my life for toxic relationship and thought patterns.
However, what we often avoid is precisely what the Lord has purposed for us to do, so there was nothing for it except to begin the process. Understand that I did not exactly enter into it voluntarily – after all, I simply wanted my circumstances to change, and I believed that everything would be all better! – but I knew that obedience, even when it is begrudgingly given, still matters to God.
It’s been a fascinating (if not uncomfortable) journey thusfar. God has revealed many things that I was flat-out unaware of before, and now that I possess these insights, I feel like I have an opportunity to interrupt the pattern and reframe it – into something healthy, positive, and God-honoring.
Along the way, I’ve learned that I struggle with negative thought patterns – fearing the worst, and trusting my perceptions and senses far more than I do my spiritual sight (walking by faith). I’ve also come to understand that the Lord is not willing to let this tendency slide, because I now understand that He cares too much about me to leave me in such a suboptimal condition.
So, just like the pattern found all through the Bible, God brings us to (and through) a rough patch, heals and redeems the pain, and then lovingly restores us to a place where we are better off than we were before. Some time elapses, and the process repeats itself, but – thank the Lord – at least now I find myself able to recognize the cycle, and know that where God is taking me is for my ultimate good. I can trust His plan.
It’s actually been sort of exciting to do what I’m calling “pattern replacement” in my life. In a way, it’s like trying to do a word search puzzle – once you find the word on the paper, it’s quite difficult to unsee it (not that “unsee” is a word or anything, but it felt right to use it). 😉 I spot the pattern and then see how I can make different choices in my present and future. Please hear me: I neither believe in or am I proponent of karma – I’m simply saying that when you aware a more self-aware person, you tend to make wiser choices in general. I believe that is what is happening with me.
I thought I’d close with this verse from Romans 12 – a family passage for some – which reminds me that God heals our negative patterns and replaces them with new ones (when we are “tranformed”).
Do not conform 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 (Romans 12:2, NIV).
So, if you are feeling stuck in a spiritual rut, ask God to reveal any unhealthy patterns that may exist in your thoughts and relationships. Then get ready for Him to answer – through people in your circle of influence, and also through your circumstances. It is not an easy process by any means! However, if you do ask Him about it, I guarantee you that He will answer – likely in ways that you’d never quite expect (that’s been my experience, anyway).
So here’s to healthy pattern-making, my friends!
Dear Lord, thank You for identifying, exposing, redeeming, and restoring the toxic thought and relationship patterns in my life. I know that this is a journey – likely a lifelong one – but I feel like things are changing in a big way, and I am grateful to You for it.
I’m not going to lie – this has been an incredibly hard and humbling process, but I know that I don’t to go back to the way I was before You started showing me toxic unhealthy patterns in my life. I ask You to continue this process – gently, please! – so that I perceive my experiences in the world (as well as my interactions with the people You’ve placed in it) in ways that reflect a healthly, biblical mindset.
Finally, thanks also for bringing some truly wonderful, like-minded people into my life as I embrace this journey. Some are followers of You, and others are not; nonetheless, I have been blessed by them all the same, and I can always learn something valuable from them, if I set my mind and heart to it.
In Your name I pray, Amen.