August 30, 2009

Linear Thinking

linear

1642, from L. linearis "belonging to a line," from linea "string, line" (see line (n.)). Linear A and Linear B (1902-3) were names given to two related forms of linear Minoan writing discovered 1894-1901 in Crete by Sir Arthur Evans.

Today I think I made a breakthough concerning this concept of "linear" thinking. As you may know (or not), I am not a linear thinking type person. I am a visual-spatial thinking type person. The main difference between the two types of thinking are in ordering and processing. The linear thinking person is very comfortable following a sequential order and finds it easiest to process details if they are laid out as A, B, C, and so on. The visual-spatial thinking person is most comfortable looking at the details and then sorting them into groups or patterns (arrangements). Often, they find it easiest to process details if they are arranged in a meaningful way (based on some internal valuation system). VS thinkers struggle following pre-ordered and pre-arranged lists. Though they value lists, and often make them to help them connect dots or complete tasks, they generally prefer to sort details on their own, based on their own assessment of the situation.

Since I am not a linear thinking person, I tend to favor a mind-mapping approach to any project. I group like items together, then sort them into meaningful categories. Once I have my categories, I then order them again and prioritize them based on their value and importance. Moreover, when faced with a difficult decision, I often create charts of lists, groups of information that is sorted and valued, to help me decide what to do.

I know this sounds really complicated and time consuming, but in reality, all this happens in my head, in a very short amount of time. I can generally process a group of details just as quickly as the person who is working a linear list of things to do (from 1-10). The outcome is similar -- the task is completed; however, the process is very different.

For the VS thinker, every step requires a re-evaluation and reassessment to make sure it is properly sorted and priorized. And, because it is not sorted based on placement or linkage (ex. often a linear list will include steps, so step 2 cannot be performed before step 1 is completed), every detail must be compared to the other details to make sure that it is not being completed before all the other key components. This process is mentally taxing, and does require significant time. Most VS thinkers learn how to do this rather quickly, so even though we are working through a process, completing task, we are actually completing more than just one step at a time. We are, in short, multitasking.

I have come to learn to live with my mental processing ability. I am comfortable with how I handle details and tasks. For the most part, I am fairly competent, and am able to tackle any task given to me. Sure, I get frustrated. Sure, I get overwhelmed at times too. Overall, I feel confident that I can handle whatever comes my way, so long as I am given the time to sort, to categorize, and then to complete each task.

Our Pastor, completed a wonderful study on the Book of Ruth today. I was familiar with this story, and have found his interpretation/message interesting. Our Pastor loves theology, and spends a great deal of time studying the Word of God. He makes sure that he gives you all the necessary details, identifies difficult words (in Greek or Hebrew), and generally teaches you the history of the text as well as the Biblical interpretation of it.

In his last message (Ruth has 4 chapters -- this was our 4th week on the Book), he spoke about this concept of linear thinking. Well, he really was speaking of linear time. I happened to make the connection to linear thinking. He said that God is linear, meaning that God's purpose and plan is linear. He likened it to a railroad and how a train moves on the track, never diverting, until it reaches it's destination. Though the train may stop or it may slow down, it will come to it's destination without fail. God's plan for redemption (as seen in the Book of Ruth) is the same way. His promise to redeem His people Israel will come to completion. His promise to send a Messiah came to pass (in Jesus). His promise to redeem His chosen people (Israel/Gentile -- grafted into the "one" olive tree) will come to pass at the end of the age. God's plan is linear. It will follow His line and will reach it's destination at the appropriate time.

Ok, so this part of the message was pretty clear to me. The next part, however, was so helpful in getting me to see how and why God's plan "appears" at times to be stalled or non-existent. Our Pastor said that although God's plan is linear (always on track), sin can and does frustrate it from time to time. It was an "a-ha" moment for me. You see, I have been seeking God's will for my life. I believe that He has a plan for me. I believe that He has a purpose for my days here on earth. Sometimes I feel as though I have it all figured out, that I know what I am to do, and how I am to go about doing it. Then, it is as if my clear mental picture shatters, I find myself left with only broken pieces. I can no longer see it all put together. God's plan for my life has been shattered, and I am left to pick up the pieces and try and make it all fit together again. Time and time again, I have been in this position...thinking it was all set, everything was in motion, and then bam! Everything I held onto and knew and loved, was suddenly shattered apart.

Many times, this feeling of being shattered was not of my own doing. Sin committed by people around me, my family members, a loved one, etc. shattered the perfect plan. Sin frustrates the plan of God. Sin clouds the purpose of God. Sin, in it's essence, places the plan of God on hold, in a standing still position -- it stops the train from moving forward.

Our Pastor gave the most wonderful reminder of how we are to get that train moving forward again. He called it the "Four R's" and they will take that stalled engine of your life (and mine), and start it moving in God's direction again. Here they are:

  1. Recognize
  2. Release
  3. Receive
  4. Repent

I like this list, it makes such good sense to me. In the first step, the believer must recognize that they have sinned. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), and even though we are forgiven, we still deal with sin on a daily basis. We live in a fallen world made up of fallen people. Fallen people choose to do fallen things -- and these fallen things frustrate the plan of God. So recognizing that you and I are sinners is the first step in getting that engine moving again. The second step involves confessing our sin to God. We must confess our sin and ask for God to forgives us of it. This step releases peace (God's mercy) into our lives. The third step is to receive that peace -- this is the free gift of God -- forgiveness from our son, the cleansing of our heart and mind, and the releasing of that peace to comfort us. The last step involves repentenance. Repenting means turning oneself around or changing oneself. It is an actual act -- something we must do -- we must turn from our sin and promise never to do it again. God's grace will give us the ability to turn from that sin and will enable us to live a life that is pleasing to Him. We must choose to turn around --to move forward (or think of it this way, to pump coal into that engine so it can continue on it's way).

After this morning's message, the thought occured to me that often we stifle God's plan when we sin or even when we allow the sins of others to trap us. God's plan and purpose are linear -- they are moving us closer and closer to His standard of perfection (and toward Heaven). When we sin ourselves or are a partner to sin (through someone else's actions), we simply apply the brakes to God's heavenly steam engine. We frustrate and stop His movement in our life.

My prayer today was that I wouldn't stop God's plan from coming to pass in my life. I want Him to have His way with me, to live His life through me, and to accomplish His purpose in both my life and in the lives of those around me. I want my life to be a blessing to others, not just for me to be blessed.

My goal today is to do whatever I can do to keep God's plan moving forward. God is sovereign; His plan will come to fruition. My part is simply to keep Him on His timeline (His heavenly timetable). I can slow Him down or I can let Him keep to His schedule in my life. My prayer is to let Him keep His schedule and to do whatever He needs to do to bring me into that Heavenly City on time. PTL!

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