Thursday, October 25, 2012

Learned Behavior

Our dog Zeddie (love of my girls' life & frequent bane of my wife's existence) is a rescue dog. Friends of ours in Florida gave him to us several years ago as we rescued them from him as well. He had obviously been beaten when he was a puppy and continues to exhibit some of those same characteristics of trauma today. He will cower when I walk into a room even though I do nothing but pet him and show him love. The past is such a powerful reminder for him that he can't move beyond it, but reacts in a way that he has been conditioned to react.

How often does this describe us? I was at a conference with our leadership team this week and we were talking about coaching sessions for church staff. I admitted that it had taken me a few years to change my perspective on coaching because it had been done poorly and infrequently in my previous experience. It left such a negative image in me that I would be filled with anxiety for several days before a coaching session. Even if I knew that the end result would not be a negative one, I still struggled with the reality of my present circumstances because of the pain of past situations. 

I wager that this is why so many people struggle with the grace & mercy of  God. We equate our poor human representations with the magnanimous love of God and are afraid to freely accept it. When God extends His hand to show us love, we cower in the corner waiting for Him to strike us in retribution. The process of unlearning fearful, reactive behavior can only be achieved by humbly accepting the flood of genuine love God is waiting to give us. Once we have experienced the genuine passion He has for His people we can break the cycle of negative expectations.

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