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Friday, May 27, 2011

The brain follows the body...

Something happened three times this last week. Writing is about logging and cataloging. Logging is writing thoughts down; Cataloging is about thinking through those thoughts and putting them into different categories to be easily accessed should you need them for future reference. Kind of like putting items in a box and then placing them in the attic. That is logging. But when you label the boxes and stack them in particular places it makes it easier to find what you’re looking for, say, come Christmas. How many times have you crammed something in a box, lost your short term memory and then been left standing there in your point of need not knowing what “unmarked boxes” to begin to look through. It’s frustrating.

But this is reason of logging and cataloging, in case you ever cared to know.

There is something I wanted to log that has happened quite a bit over the last week. It has been shocking enough to want to “think about my thoughts” to get to the bottom of where it’s coming from.

I don’t know how to set this up, so I’ll just crash into the point of it all.

Three times in the last week, I’ve been minding my own business and out of nowhere (out of somewhere) God has placed on my heart an urge to go to someone’s house, knock on the door, and see how they’re doing. It’s as profound and as simple as that.

Whenever I’ve done it, I stand there wondering why I didn’t think through it a little more before I “just did it”. Usually I screen the process vigorously reasoning through the scenario with a fine-tooth comb. 9 times out of ten (and this is being very liberal), I talk myself out of doing it due to the multiple justified reasons of why this would be an irresponsible decision causing more harm than good.

Yet two times last week when filled with an urge to stop by to see how my neighbor was doing, my car started pulling in the driveway before I had “made up my mind”. The one time I started walking across the yard long before I had a “plan of action”. I found myself knocking on those two doors with my heart pounding because I didn’t honestly know “my script”. What was I gonna say? “Hey, I just thought I’d check in on you.” What? What am I, a parole officer? “Hey man, I’ve been thinking about you lately and thought I’d drop by.” What? That sounds like I have a man-crush! Anything my brain thought to say sounded silly or creepy.

And then…the door opens…and you’re standing there with an unprepared brain couched in an overly eager body. The body led the brain to “do something”.

This happened again just this week. I was sitting at the coffee shop sipping my cup of Joe and beginning my message for this week on caring for people who are going through deep suffering, and low and behold, a woman comes in the shop weeping with her stoic husband. I mean, tears streaming down her face, puffy eyes, runny makeup, the whole enchilada. She grabbed a seat at the table right next to me and her husband made his way to the counter to purchase their coffee.

I looked over at her and she was looking out the window with big tears streaming down her face and falling off her chin onto the high-top table making a little saline pool in front of her. I looked away and told myself to just “mind my own business” so as to not make a “bad situation worse”. My brain kept telling me, “It’s not your problem and besides, you don’t want to make her feel more awkward. Let she and her husband work out whatever seems to be the problem and you just steer clear of the situation. It will be better for both parties, cause you don’t have time and she doesn’t have composure. You will embarrass her and yourself. Back down.”

I’m only sharing a few of the 100 excuses that made getting up and going over to see how she was doing sound almost sinful. “What will her husband think as he looks across the room and sees a grown man talking to his shattered wife? You’re gonna get beat up, son! She needs her space right now. It’s probably a private issue that needs to be kept private. Don’t make her have to tell you to bug off and leave her alone. We all know what it feels like to have a stranger insert himself or herself into your life and not knowing how to tell them to ‘go away’. Don’t make her have to spend her already depleted energy levels on figuring out how to get rid of you.”

My mind was hard at work thinking up a thousands reasons why not to get out of my chair, walk four steps to her table, and ask her the simple question, “Is everything ok?” Even that question sounded so stupid. “Of course everything’s not ok, you idiot, or I wouldn’t be bawling my brains out in a local coffee shop. Thanks for your astute question, Captain Obvious!” All these thoughts and many more caused me to settle back into my seat after being on the edge of it for about a minute. I started working on my message again trying to block out of my mind the woman weeping off to my left. My heart wouldn’t let this happen.

Before I knew what was happening, my body got out of my seat and started heading toward the woman. Here’s where I felt something I don’t know as I’ve every felt before.

My brain was scrambling to catch up to my body so that when I stood next to the woman I would have something logical to say. The decisiveness of my body was throwing the indecisiveness of my brain into a tailspin. This was the third time this week where my body started toward something without getting permission from my brain. Before I knew what I was going to do or say, I was standing in front of someone who was fully expecting me to have a reason from being there. This is a panicky feeling in case you haven’t ever done this before.

It got me to wondering if God has had enough of my “brain”. I wonder if he’s tired of watching my mind stop my body from acting on stabs of pain, promptings to move, or inklings to engage. It’s as if God was saying, “Because your brain has proven it’s inept ability to respond correctly time and time again to situations of need, I am now eliminating the middle man of your mind and going right to your body with my desires. I don’t trust your mind anymore, it talks you into wasteful things and out of meaningful things far too often. I can’t have this anymore.”

And that is what he’s doing, bypassing my brain and dispatching my body to move toward meaning.

It is clear that God wants by body to move toward needs right now, and it is also very clear that he has come to realize that my brain will stop me in debilitating deliberations, second-guessing games, self-perseveration biases, and twisted lines of logic that actually make you feel like it helps people more to “leave them be”.

So God has done something very clever, he isn’t even consulting my brain lately. I mean, he starts to, but when I start in with my excuses he just lifts my body off the chair or out of my yard and before I know what to say, I’m standing in front of a human who is fully expecting me to know why I decided to place myself in front of them. What they don’t know is that I didn’t actually decide. My mouth starts to open and my tongue forms some words and strings together some sentences, many of which sound every bit like a 3-year-old asking questions. “How are you doing?” “Is everything going ok?” “What is that?” “Do you need anything?” “I just wanted to say hi.” And you know what? People respond.

When I went over to the crying lady in the coffee shop I asked her if everything was ok. She said, “Yes, thank you.” My brain told me to take that answer and move on, my body probed deeper. “Is there anything you need right now?” She replied, “No, thank you, I’m alright.” Again, my brain said, “You heard her, dude, leave her alone, she’s just fine, I told you this was going to be stupid.” But my body wouldn’t relent, “Are you sure? Cause if you need anything, I’m at that table over there and you can let me know. I just wanted you to know that I’ll be praying for you.” “Thank you” she replied. I turned and went back to my table.

As I sat back down to type on my computer my hands were shaking so violently it was like I just had a “near-death” experience. It took almost 10 minutes to calm down so that I could stroke the keys on my Mac. My adrenaline was pumping through my blood stream like water in a garden hose. This is what happens when your brain is in the back seat and your body is in the front seat. Your body apparently doesn’t wait to “feel in control” or to “know what to say” or to “plan the perfect encounter”. Your body realizes that you will never do anything if you wait to align those stars. Sometimes you just gotta move toward the need and see what happens.

I think God is growing tired of our “brains” always talking us out of stuff. He knows that most of the time it’s a bunch of bunk. We just don’t want to risk, so we avoid the unknown and the uncontrolled.

To God, it’s a “no-brainer”.

And honestly, it’s been refreshing to follow my body into the fray for a change instead of letting my mind “talk me in to or out of things”. It’s actually really funny watching my mind panic to catch up to my body on the way to the front door of the house, or in the 4 steps in between me and the nearby table. My brain has been under such trauma lately from being drug into danger-zones. It’s been good for it, because it’s always been used to running the show.

God has figured out how to get the job done and it goes something like this:

“Give the brain one, maybe two chances to do what’s right. If it doesn’t respond based on the dodges of its own clever cognitions or terms and conditions, promptly go to the top and just make the body go forward without the minds approval. It won’t be long before the intellectual will submit to the actual and what’s actually right will finally be the victor over what’s intellectually reasonable. In the end, when it comes to the body interacting with the brain, it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission.”

This philosophy, though traumatic, actually feels pretty good after your blood pressure goes down, your hands stop violently trembling and you recover from the near-death experience.

Because in my mind, the gospel means nothing if it isn’t moving nearer to death and further from comfort. Absolutely nothing.

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