Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus
Language is something that continues to fascinate and interest me. Even more intriguing than just language itself, however, is the way in which language and the human mind interact with one another. Notice, for instance, how we read. English is a left-to-right, top-to-bottom language, of course (as are most languages in the world). Thus, from a very young age, we begin learning how to read from the top left of the page, all the way down to the bottom right of the page. By the time we reach our teenage years—for the overwhelming majority of us—this left-to-right and top-to-bottom method is completely second nature. We are able to do it without thinking about it. It is ingrained in us. Through practice, exposure, training, and experience, our minds become oriented in a certain way so that when seeing written words, we immediately “jump” to the top left of the message and begin scanning left to right and top to bottom.
I think about this from time to time when out in public, because there are signs and messages everywhere: “Speed Limit 45,” “Eat at Joe’s,” “Visitor Parking,” and the like. But a few of my favorites are these: “Ahead Stop,” “Block Not Do,” and the famous, “Automatic Caution Door,” each of which has a Yoda-esque quality [nerd note: Yoda spoke in what is called “OSV format,” that is, object, subject, verb. We speak—and typically write—in subject, verb, object format, such as “He ran home.” For Yoda, it would be “Home he ran.” Ok, nerd note over]. Again, our brains, having been trained to read messages from left to right and top to bottom, process these words in a specific way. This is why I record those latter three messages the way that I do—because that’s how the brain sees them in most cases. I understand in two of the examples why the DOT “reverses” the order of the words in these important messages. They assume that folks will read the messages—painted on the pavement instead of on a vertical sign—starting with the first word to which they come. Similarly, for the common warning on automatic doors, the assumption is that the eye will first be drawn to the largest, boldest word (the one in the middle of the message: “CAUTION”). Yet in each of these situations—and there are many other examples—the brain is already oriented in a certain direction, and rarely will it violate what is now deeply ingrained. Thus we read them as “Ahead Stop,” and “Block Not Do,” and “Automatic Caution Door.” This is because we have learned through practice, exposure, training, and experience to orient our minds in a certain way.
Scripture is filled with admonitions and examples from patriarchs and prophets and apostles and God himself and Christ himself for people to orient their hearts and minds toward what is good, what is holy, and what is righteous—that is, to be attuned to what is from God. What is embedded in us via our nature, however, is something quite different than a God-orientation. It is natural for us to be rebellious and self-serving. It is inherent in us to sin and to seek what we think is best for us. It is our “first nature” to follow the ethical norms and values of this broken world. But we know that in Christ that is changed. In Christ we begin a transformative process that defies our first nature. In Christ it is possible for dramatic change to be made to that nature. In Christ we are given power to overcome whatever we were before, whatever we were born into, and whatever may otherwise have destroyed us. It is only in Christ that we experience a personal spiritual revolution in which we are made new.
God calls us to re-orient our hearts and minds. That call is to practice what we see in the example of Christ, to expose ourselves to the word of God regularly, to train by imitation and meditation on what God has told us and on what God has done, and to pray for the maturity that comes from experience, and for the experience that comes from maturity. The call is to rebel against our first nature and clothe ourselves—through reorientation—with the super-nature of our great God.