Mental Rehearsing's Role in Sanctification
by Aramus Crane
No new idea
If you ask any respected professional, whether she be an
actor, a doctor, a politician, a salesman, a soldier or an athlete, she
will tell you that a part of the reason for their success is practice
and mentally rehearsing the task ahead of them. There is a
neurological basis for the old proverb, “Practice makes perfect“ and
for the Army saying, “Do it in practice as you will do in battle.“
Between each pair of neurons that communicate to each other,
there is a microscopic space called the synapse. Here electronic
pulses are changed into chemical signals using neurotransmitters.
These flow out of the sending neuron's gate and into the receiving
neuron's receptor where they are transduced into electronic pulses
again. Each time that someone does something, the gates and receptors
in the mental synapses are strengthened. Otherwise, over a period of
disuse, these channels get used in other ways and the brain gets
rewired. If the brain is wired for a specific action or reaction, that
action will be executed easier and faster than if it has never been
done before. When we get stressed or tired, our actions regress into
what is natural, the “animal instinct“. If we mentally and physically
rehearse what we desire to do or say, it will become easier and appear
more genuine, because it will become genuine. This is the secret to
success in the public eye.
Using it in Kingdom life
Other than a pastor's normal routine of practicing his sermon
in front of a mirror, this trait is virtually unknown in Christian
circles. How many missionaries do what a salesman does, keeping records
on contacts: their previous conversations, opinions, vital statistics
and prayerfully plan for the next conversation under the leading of the
Holy Spirit? How many mentally have a conversation before the next
visitation, having some idea of what they will say, what objections
might be brought up, correct reactions to those objections, open and
loving body language, etc?
No, the hapless missionary goes in unprepared, gets surprised
by the person's reaction, gets angry, expresses negative body language,
and says something that he usually regrets or doesn't say something and
later thinks, “boy I could have said that“. But he doesn't write it
down in a file to be reviewed before the next conversation and doesn't
say it the next time either. This is one reason why we are known as the
most disorganized, inefficient, unprofessional and ineffective of all
professions. Beloved, this ought not be so. Even as college students
in the Navigators, we at least planned before visitation and evaluated
our conversations afterwards.
Introducing rehearsing into parenting
How many times do we mentally rehearse our conversations with
our children about sex or drugs? How much do we prepare ourselves to
react positively to criticism and insults? If you know you will have a
meeting with someone who insults you about your faith, do you do
anything to prepare for it? Prayer is important, and many will do that.
But, mentally preparing yourself will give you a whole new experience.
How do I do it?
What is mentally rehearsing? Imagine yourself going into that
meeting with the anti-Christian. Imagine some of the insults that he
might throw at you. Now mentally or even physically observe your body
language and see if it is closed and defensive. Make it open and
loving. OK, play it over again with the right body language. Now what
will you say in response? Is there a better word or tone to use? Use
it. Now, say it in love, aloud, so that you hear yourself say it and
reinforce the right synapses in the Broca and Wernicke's areas of the
brain for speech and hearing. Repeat it two or three times and then
think of another insult. Do this for a number of attacks. The two
minutes that you have invested in preparation are repaid by not losing
hours of sleep afterwards regretting what you said or thinking how to
undo the damage you did to God's Kingdom and your career.
As I've discovered in my marriage, words are hard to unspeak
and emotional damage is hard to undo. Let us do it better the first
time. Mental rehearsal goes far in our sanctification process.