“Instinct” (suggested applications)

The following is related to an earlier devotional post on “instinct”:  we may need to listen to that still, small voice, but it very much depends on whose voice it is.  If you’re not familiar with this series, you may want to review some of the foundational articles and videos on W.A.I.T. training and specific posts on “instinct.

There are 24 such subjects on this website.  You can use the search function to read the devotionals and related Scriptures, view training videos, and even watch contemporary Christian music videos on the same subjects.  Simply place your smartphone or tablet on the reading deck of your favorite cardio equipment in the gym, or prop it up in a safe place as you and a friend exercise at home, or even project it onto a smart TV through wifi or bluetooth for larger groups.

I offer the applications below and others only as examples of how you might physically express spiritual principles.   They are not magical formulas or guarantees.  Neither are they substitutes for God’s call to gather with other believers for worship in a local church, to study His Word and pray privately, to fellowship with other Christians throughout the week, or to serve the hurting and lost.

In the metaphor of physical fitness, consider this series as a “supplement” for your spiritual health.  I do believe, however, that these articles and related video which simultaneously feed our spiritual, physical, and relational health can be very practical.  After all, the Lord created each of us as a body with a spirit for relationships.  And remember, always consult a physician before beginning any new exercise program.

 

Suggested applications for meditation on “instinct”:

Again, the intent of W.A.I.T. training is greater mindfulness in the Body of Christ: slowing down enough to discern our soul and submit our natural instincts to His Word for godly relationships.  But to do this, we must be focused.

God re-creates Christians by sending His Spirit to live in us, but our bodies are still being corrupted and damaged by sin. (Ephesians 4:22-24)  Therefore, both voices may often feel like competing instincts in us.  Choose formats and intensities that help you sense and focus on the images and sensations that come to you – positive, negative, or seemingly indifferent.

Find a time and place that’s relatively free of distraction (no music or TV, pedestrians or cars to dodge, kids to watch, etc.) and a method that can be self-paced so I can slow down enough to focus on I’m feeling as ‘true’ and ‘good’ and then turning my focus to what is actually True and Good for His Body in His Word.  For example, I like to exercise at home, early in the morning, on an empty track, or in the gym at low-traffic hours and use machines on which I can quickly adjust the difficulty for more appropriate focus for my body and soul.

Watch for vague feelings, memories or images.  The terrible, wonderful and recent will be easier to notice, but you’ll need to stay open to identify and deal with subtle signs of pride, fear or confusion.  Most of us push these down or project them onto others.  First, just be aware of them.  God has woven your body and spirit together, so your experiences are literally stored in your brain and nervous system as memories of sights, sounds, touches, smells, and tastes.  When these bubble up, God may be calling you to reflect on them.  But Satan may also use them to tempt you to defend yourself, blame others, etc.  Use God’s Word (not your preferences) to guide you.

Accept that these emotions and images are a part of you – not necessarily good or even fully true – but you will not take it to Jesus until you accept that it is really within you.  Most of us make two errors with our instincts:   sometimes we listen to every feeling and impulsively submit to them without any discretion, and other times we tune out our bodies completely and shut out all of its cries.  For example, if you prefer to be introverted, your auto-pilot is probably to stuff things down within you.  If you prefer extroversion, your auto-pilot is to act it out on others.  But His way is to live interdependently in His Body by His Word.  We must be aware of our instincts but answer them in His truth and Spirit. (Galatians 5:13-26)

The instincts of our corrupt and damaged bodies tell us we must respond, or else:  “I must eat or I won’t feel anything good!  I must sleep or I won’t have the energy to succeed!  I must have sex or I won’t know if the other person really loves me!  I must exercise or I won’t have people who admire me!”

Look back at those statements.   Each is a false conviction:  ‘felt’ in our flesh, based in a belief, calling us to act in a relationship.  So, when are our felt instincts merely biological sensations and when are they convictions from our flesh or from God?   Jeremiah 17:9 suggests that it may be impossible to tell.  What matters is how we respond.

Accepting any negative experiences within us will be difficult.  Our sinful instinct is to protect our self by pushing them down, numbing out, blaming others, acting out to alleviate our stress, etc.  Submitting to God’s Word and Spirit, however, can lead us to greater openness.  Try to verbalize to others what you are sensing within you (or among you), even if the feeling, belief, or image is vague.  Our partners can encourage us to go deeper by saying something like “Can you say more about that?”  “I’m here with you – let it come out.”  “You’re being very open.  I’m listening.”  Statements like these can help us feel safe enough to go a little deeper until we discern our actual beliefs and emotions that are fueling our relational M.O.

When we feel safe, our spirit/body will often begin to ‘free-associate’ seemingly unrelated feelings, images, and memories.  I suggest that you continue to free-associate until you have a clearer grasp of the specific emotion and related belief:  e.g., “I am sad because I believe I am a disappointment to my wife, so I tend to withdraw from her.”  “I am afraid that I won’t be able to protect my children.”  “I am angry that . . .”

We must not be like those of whom God says, “(your way is like) a restless young camel running here and there, a wild donkey used to the wilderness, in her heat sniffing the wind! Who can restrain her lust?” (Jeremiah 2:23-24)  We see the same concern in Jude 10.  Animal-like instincts are self-protective and, therefore, self-destructive to intimacy in Christ.

Once you have an understanding of your underlying beliefs, others may need to help you transition to focus on what it might look like to Invest in Christ.  A member of your group could say “This is powerful, and it seems to bother you.  What Scripture might address what you are experiencing?”  You or they could repeat the Scripture(s) or vividly describe a time when the Lord intervened for you in a similar concern.  One of you could also pray aloud for exactly how you need Jesus’ wisdom, peace, boldness, forgiveness, etc.

Team with your group or other believers in your life by living out what you see in God’s Word in the area of concern.

The instincts of our flesh are powerful, and we will need the help of fellow believers to stay close to our Lord.  The devil tempts us to do what we think is right, but only God’s Word is trustworthy.  He will reward us for obeying His Word and discipline us for following our instincts instead.  Consider the following example as a before and after snapshot of Israel.

Before the Israelites entered the promise land, God reminded them to follow Him alone and promised to bless them if they did so. (Joshua 1:7-9)  But after generations of continuing to follow their instincts, Judges 19-21 reveals the disastrous results of doing “what was right in their own eyes”.  What’s the point?  We must ground ourselves in God’s Word and surround ourselves with fellow faithful believers.

We tend to defend against pain by focusing on intellectual issues or superficial facts instead of genuine relationships.  So, consider meeting with members of your exercise group for additional times of meditation on Scripture and prayer.  You can share your convictions, changes, resistance to change, what is being most helpful, etc.  If you want to grow, you’ll have to take some risks.  Telling others about the depths of our souls will be difficult.  Listening to theirs can be, too.  But James 5:16 tell us that such love can be healing.

Again, we’d rather ‘fix it’ or shape others into our image instead of disciple them in Jesus’ image and follow-up for genuine relationships under Christ: calling them on the phone, inviting them to our homes, befriending them on a social network, going to functions together at church, school, or sports.  It takes time and teams to renew our minds against old instincts.  See Romans 12:1-3ff for more on the subject.

What is your fear?  And who is your Love?  W.A.I.T.

If you’d like to receive more posts from the series, “Workout Wednesdays”, you can subscribe to the tools4trenches blog.

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If you’d like to know more about who publishes the articles, videos, and other materials on tools4trenches, you can click on the picture of me and my wife.

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