Have you ever been babysitting someone else’s kids and half way through their time with you, you realize you really don’t appreciate one of them? Oh, C’mon, please tell me I’m not the only one! Maybe it was even one of your own kids! GASP!! When you feel like that, your brain is actually sending you a very important piece of information. It’s telling you that a good chunk of your brain has shut down. The part that has your relational circuits in them. When that part of your brain is off, you just want that person, problem or feeling to go away. You don’t feel like “walking a mile in their shoes” and you may talk in a more aggressive, sarcastic and harsh tone of voice. Is anyone relating to what I’m saying? Have you ever felt like that? It’s not a good place to be. We are not kind and loving when our relational circuits are off.
Unfortunately there are many, many things that can shut off our relational circuits. Stuff like tiredness, worry, busyness, someone upsetting you, feeling rejection and so on. And as a parent there are 1,2,3…however many kids you have who constantly do or don’t do things that can dim or shut off your circuits. Jesus commands us to love others, but that is a really tall task if your relational circuits are jammed off and all you want is for that person to go away. When our relational circuits are on we are able to experience joy, we can connect to God and to others, we can feel appreciation for the people and things in our lives, we can think creatively and we can behave like we want to in a stressful situation. How good does that sound? I want that part of my brain to stay engaged! So how do we get our relational circuits back on so that we can love those around us and show them we are happy to be with them?
First, sometimes we have to just fake it till we make it. Let me tell you a story. I was doing some Language Arts with my son and he was being very silly and goofy. Now you need to know how task oriented I can get when I’m in school mode and so any goofiness is eating up MY time. So I am not impressed by this and he is smiling at me and being joyful. I am NOT joyful. I am getting angry. My shoulders are tensing, I am starting to clench my teeth and breathe heavily out of my nose. And just as I am about to say something that would break relationship with my son I remember to fake it till I make it. You see, my “end in mind” goal is to have joy in our home. So this is a place to practice right? So I “smile and laugh” instead. Now I put those in quotes because if you could have seen me do that, you would have shook your head at my attempt to do both of those. But my son seemed to not notice (yeah, 8 year old boys!) and just the action of smiling helped me ease up and let it go. Fake it till you make it!
Now you can’t stay in that mode because you actually want your relational circuits to be engaged. I am so thankful that God keeps things simple. In order to turn on that part of your brain that is glad to be with others you need to….spend time with Jesus! Now I think here is where we task people can get tripped up. Maybe you have tried spending time with Jesus and you come out of that not feeling joy and appreciation. It’s not so much WHAT you do, but HOW you do it. Jesus wants a relationship with us. He wants to spend time with us. It’s not just about learning new facts about God or praying through your list. Spending time with Jesus is talking and listening and engaging not just your mind, but your heart as well.
So, find a nice, quiet spot where you won’t be disturbed. Get comfortable, make something hot to drink, put on some quiet music. You have now just set the stage for a great chat with Jesus! Imagine the God of the Universe is there with you. Invite Him to share this time with you. Quiet yourself. Take some deep breaths, a few sips of coffee, relax your muscles.
Now talk to Jesus. Write down what you are thankful for in your life and why you are thankful for those things. Tell God what you love about Him. We engage our hearts and minds through appreciation. This step helps to get our relational circuits back on.
Then you can connect to Jesus. Talk to him about what is bothering you and get his perspective on it. Tell him what you are struggling with as a parent and let Him show you how he sees your child. Take a situation to him that worries you and get His heart and will for that problem. Now as you open your Bible you are connected to Jesus and ready to hear what He wants to say to you through His word.
When we spend time with Jesus, He calms our minds, He helps our brains feel appreciation and He longs to connect His heart to ours. When that happens, we come out changed. We come out of our time with Him WANTING to love others. But we need to do this daily, sometimes a few times a day because life will throw so many things at us that turn off our relational circuits. We need to fight that constant drain on our brain, and we do this simply by getting alone with Jesus.
Use it or lose it: Spend some time with Jesus today! Focus on building a relationship with Jesus, not just “doing your devotions”. I’ve included a sheet to give you some ideas of how to begin.