The Shift, Part 2

There's an old saying, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks." I think a lot of us still believe it, and even say it from time to time. Last week, we talked about paradigm shifts and the role of grieving and letting go. This week, I want to talk about the next step.
In the past 20 years, there has been a paradigm shift in the field of neuroscience, the study of the brain. Conventional wisdom says that people stop learning, or at least find it more difficult to learn, as they age. Neuroscientists are discovering, more and more, that learning continues well into our last days on earth - it just looks different from how children learn.
Children's learning happens in big chunks. Parents, you can likely recall times when your children jumped from knowing and speaking with ten words to using fifty, all in a matter of days. A mathematical concept that feels impenetrable to a student one day suddenly becomes clear as day, overnight.
Adults have far more experience with the world than children, so our learning doesn't usually happen in those big chunks - our learning tends to be gradual and incremental. We can discern fine details that would be lost on a child, and our learning style shows it. 
Neuroplasticity is the ability of our bodies to make actual physical changes within the brain, to make new connections in response to changes in our environment or to our understanding of things. You see, you can teach an "old person" new tricks.

The Role of Rest

Last year, I read a book called Why We Sleep, by neuroscientist Dr. Matthew Walker. If you've always wondered why we "waste time" sleeping, I encourage you to pick it up. While you sleep, your body does hundreds of things to repair, rebuild, and detox, but it also uses that time to make neuroplastic changes in response to new information. This is when your new short-term memories are shifted into your long-term memory (learning), or are disposed of (filtering).
Have you ever struggled with a problem and then decided to "sleep on it?" Have you noticed that a solution often appears with the dawn? Have you ever been churning on an issue at work, gone to get some coffee or take a break, and found that the issue is easier to handle when you come back to it?
We now understand that the brain builds connections when we let go, when we rest, or when we change focus.

Be Still and Know

You may have heard the new "buzz word" going around in business and ministry circles - "adaptation fatigue." It's the exhaustion we get when we're asked to make changes more quickly than what our gradual, deliberate adult learning style finds comfortable. Some of us are even going through the more serious "adaptation resistance" - "I think the world is just going to go back to the way it was, and I don't need to learn a new way of being." The latter position is foolhardy, but the former is entirely understandable.
God has known since... well, forever... that adults learn gradually. God built neuroplasticity into us, but he also gave us rest, so that we could continue to adapt to the changes in our world as we grow older. He even dictated a day of rest into our workweek, to ensure that we'd take a break and let our minds catch up with an ever-changing world.
We've cultivated a sense that to succeed, we must DO. Right now, in our rapidly changing environment, we keep trying to DO MORE to adapt to what's going on around us. I'd like to humbly request something of you: stop it. 
I'm sure you've heard people throw around the scripture, "Be still and know that I am God." We use this half-verse to tell people they need to have a quiet time, or that we need to connect with God throughout the day. I invite you to read Psalm 46 with me. This Psalm describes some of the most stressful things a person can experience - earthquakes and volcanoes and floods and wars. And amid of these overwhelming images, God says this (verse 10, NIV):
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”
Do you think God was whispering this statement? Or do you think he was booming in a commanding voice, to overtop the noise and the chaos? One way or the other, He was clear about His desire for us during times of upheaval. We must rest. We must focus on Him. We must be still. Stop striving, struggling, and fighting. After letting go of the past, like we talked about last week, our next step is to be still. Know that He will be victorious, and He'll carry us into that victory. Shift your perspective; with eyes on God instead of our circumstances, adaptation becomes almost effortless.

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