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Abundant Life Outside the Lines

CrossOver reflection for Week 49 • Beginning November 10, 2019
We Make the Road by Walking, Chapter 10

Rev. Mary Huycke

One of the human attributes that allow us to navigate daily life is the very attribute that enslaves us to unhelpful patterns of behavior and attitude.

A thousand times a day, we are beneficiaries of not having to stop to think deeply about the task in front of us. The simple act of getting a glass of water from our kitchen faucet is simple precisely because we don’t have to stop and wonder, where is there a water faucet in the house? How do I turn on the water? We grab a glass from the cabinet and fill it up all without pausing in conversation. Once mastered, driving a car is automatic. Upon seeing a stoplight, we don’t have to take the time at each intersection, pondering, “hmmm…what is the meaning of a red light, again?” The learned somatic pattern kicks in, our foot depresses the brake, and we stop.

We’d be lost without our patterned responses. But Christian discipleship — the going-on-to-perfection trajectory John Wesley describes — depends on our ability to notice our patterned responses and move beyond them. 

Social scientists say that by the age of two, we each have learned strategies for getting our needs met. Our in-born nature combines with our familial environment to wire us in particular ways. Those specific ways are what we come to think of as “normal,” and lead to us acting and reacting automatically. But what serves us well in one stage of life, or type of situation, is not always helpful, let alone Christ-like, in another. As people trying to follow Christ’s Way, we are called to take on the mind of Christ and the attitudes and behaviors that arise from that. This requires becoming aware of our in-grained patterns and how they lead us in a different direction.

That’s why studying scripture and practicing spiritual disciplines are so important. They re-pattern us. To paraphrase McLaren in this week’s chapter, God invites us out of slavery, but slavery still has to be gotten out of us. Each of us has attitudes and behaviors that make perfect sense for us to have given who we are, how we were raised, and what we’ve experienced. Yet, they are often harmful to ourselves, to others and to the world. Each season of growth in faith reveals new ones to be addressed – that’s why it’s a going-on-to-perfection and not a done and done thing.

As a leadership coach and process consultant, one of the phrases those working with me hear often is, “we can’t manage what we don’t see.” And truly, we generally don’t manage what we don’t hold as important to ourselves or those we care about. 

This week’s chapter in, We Make the Road by Walking, is coming at a perfect time for me. While in the ordering of chapters, it’s at the beginning, our Area study of the book puts it at the end. After walking this road for the past year, this chapter now asks me the right question, “Given what you’ve said you’ve wanted and longed for and been committed to, take a look at your life again – what has you enslaved to walking a path you say you don’t value or want?” 

And even as my heart sinks at seeing those things, and the seeming impossibility of moving beyond them, I hear a voice gently saying, “Come.”

Rev. Mary Huycke has authored several books on leadership and church renewal and is a founding partner of Courageous Space Coaching & Consulting. She lives in Yakima, Washington with her husband David and their three cats.

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