Life is better when certain knowledge and skills are instinctive. Children learn their math facts by repetition, also known as “drill and practice.” When I was a child, we memorized addition, subtraction and multiplication tables. We chanted, “One plus one is two. One plus two is three…” We used flashcards. It was pretty boring, but it worked.
Why do children spend so much time on this rote memorization? They need to be able to use these facts in daily life instinctively, without having to take time to think. When they are supposed to be learning algebra, if they are still trying to get the arithmetic right they will be at a disadvantage.
We teach children to “stop, drop and roll” if their clothing catches fire. Why do they practice this in their families and at school? So that instead of running and screaming the children will instinctively do the most effective thing they can to put out the flames.
In basic training military recruits learn to obey orders instinctively. This training can save their lives or the lives of their companions in combat situations. Thinking through and questioning orders in the midst of a battle could get people killed.
Our children run instinctively to us if they are hurt or scared. In our spiritual lives, we need to develop the habit of instinctively turning to the Lord in times of stress. We also need to express gratitude to Him in all things. Unfortunately, many of us have learned over the years to rely on some other source of comfort. For some it is other people. For others it is a substance or behavior. If turning to those sources instead of the Lord in times of need becomes instinctive, it can lead to addiction.
Something happened in my life the other day that was totally unexpected. My immediate reaction was anger. I don’t get angry very often. For the most part, I have learned not to say hurtful things in a moment of anger, but will only give myself a “C” for this particular “test.” After making a few unhelpful comments I removed myself from the environment to cool off. Not a bad strategy, perhaps.
As a part of living in a state of recovery, and having worked steps 6 and 7, I try to partner with the Lord on removing my shortcomings. One approach I use is to ask myself, “Who do I want to be in this moment and what would she do?” I want to be someone who, in that moment of unexpected anger, will turn instinctively to the Lord for help and guidance. I will work on that. A better strategy, I think.
Practice Instinctively Turning to the Lord
How do we practice instinctively turning to the Lord in each moment? By deliberate repetition of behaviors, actions and attitudes that have worked for ourselves and others. We can turn to the Lord in prayer frequently throughout the day. I once heard a talk from a Mission President’s wife. She said that the first thing she did when she got up in the morning was get on her knees to pray. The last thing she did before she went to bed at night was get down on her knees to finish her prayer. The remainder of the the day she was having a running conversation with God.
We can practice an attitude of gratitude by writing daily in a journal. We can use affirmations – rote repetitions of principles that we want to burn into our brains – to help us learn new behaviors or attitudes. For example, “I turn to the Lord in moments of stress.” We can use a God Box to turn things over to the Lord. We can wear a piece of jewelry that helps us remember that He is available to us at all times. Each of us needs to pray for guidance and discernment to find those tools that will work best for us, individually, to develop this life-changing habit of instinctively turning to the Lord.
Life will provide plenty of opportunities to be tested – to assess how well we have learned to rely upon Him. One day it will truly become “ours” and the nature of our “practice” will change from that of a child memorizing math facts to a doctor “practicing” medicine.
- Consider how well you do at turning to the Lord for comfort or guidance instead of anyone one or anything else.
- What are you willing to do today to develop an instinctive habit of turning to Him in all things?
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