Breaking Bad Patterns
If you were traveling to or through a city and wanted to visit the points of interest, would you take this exit? Of course not. The purpose of the sign is to highlight all the attractions that the driver will encounter if they take exit 18. But the sign is empty and doesn’t delineate any attractions. When I saw this sign I laughed and thought: “there is nothing attractive in that exit…in fact the sign’s purpose is futile. Why even have it?”
Yet, how often do we take exits in life where God has clearly revealed there is nothing attractive to compel us to exit? The enemy has a way of putting a huge bright billboard sign with merely the word “ATTRACTION” attached to an exit number and we so easily get off thinking something is there.
Maybe you find yourself today continuing to exit into something (poor financial decisions, jealousy, pride, pornography, some type addiction, etc.) or to someone (friendships, intimate relationships, homosexuality) that you know isn’t God’s main attraction for you. Has God shown you signs like this one that nothing at the exit is attractive to Him, but you keep exiting?
Let’s be honest - we’ve all been there. It’s called bondage or a soul tie. There’s nothing attractive about it or him or her, however, you give in to the temptation time and time again to frequent this exit, which leaves you feeling empty and void. In essence, you’ve been cheated of the main attraction that God has just a little further down the road at another exit. Using this hypothetical, maybe the main attraction is even as close as Exit 19 while you are stuck at Exit 18.
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.” Romans 7:15-20 NIV
So how do you break the pattern of getting off at this exit? Build new patterns. How do you build new patterns?
Here are five practical ways:
Remove yourself: do you wonder why you continue returning to your vomit? Proximity. It is extremely difficult to break a sole tie when you keep yourself in the same environment that causes you to settle for the wrong exit. Breaking this pattern may require you to take a bold step in removing yourself from the temptation. It may mean moving from where you live or work. I had a family member with a great job where she was getting a lot of experience and loved the work assignment. However, she entered into a toxic relationship with a co-worker and eventually had to quit this job to break the sole tie. In working with individuals who struggle with addiction, I often recommend moving away to get help in another city away from temptations, relationships, and triggers. Maybe you need to remove yourself from social media and computers if you struggle with pornography. Ask God what steps you need to take to remove yourself and put distance between yourself and the exit you keep frequenting that you know is not God’s will? I guarantee you it will hurt short term. But long term you will have the peace and freedom you so desperately want and deserve.
Accountability: the enemy operates in isolation. He doesn’t want you to have people in your life to help break the cycle of taking the same exit repeatedly that God has not intended for you. True accountability requires vulnerability with full disclosure. God can heal when you fully expose things in the dark and bring them into the light. The enemy knows this and therefore tries to keep your pattern in the dark through shame, condemnation, embarrassment, pride, guilt and/or fear of getting disappointed, hurt, rejected or abandoned. Remember you were created for relationship and where two or more are gathered in His name, God is in the midst of them. Fight through any tendencies to isolate and ask God to show you who to open up to in vulnerability. It's important you disclose and are accountable to the right person.
Prayer AND fasting: there is power in prayer. But there are some things that can only be overcome through prayer and fasting. When the disciples were unable to heal a boy they asked Jesus why. Jesus responded: “But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” Matthew 17:21 NASB. When was the last time you prayed AND fasted for God to remove this bondage, pattern, and sole tie? Ask the person holding you accountable in point two to join you in fasting for God’s complete healing of this pattern God wants to break.
Captivate thoughts: you have the power to control your thoughts. Most actions start with a thought. Before you got off at this exit with no attractions, it started as a thought. So if you can control the thought from entering your mind, the outcome can be to inhibit the action from ever manifesting. “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.” You must start this captivity at inception. As soon as the thought enters your mind, your litmus test needs to be: “does this thought align with what Christ says? Does it align with the word of God?” If the answer is no, jail the thought and with intentionality begin thinking and even speaking about something else out loud. Yes, even if you are alone. There are many times when I find myself starting to think about things that are contrary to what God wants, and I begin speaking Scripture out loud to combat the thoughts.
Be obedient in the hard things: in order to break a pattern and be free from bondage you have to be obedient to follow through with the hard things. Faith without works is dead. Put some action behind your despair and fight the temptation to exit where God has no attractions for you through obedience. You may not have all the answers. You may not like the option available. But be obedient and watch how God will break through your pattern and bring you a new one that is not burdensome. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. If you are heavy burdened today, be obedient in the hard things, and watch Him ease the load. You have to surrender your will if you want to get different results.
You are called to exit and frequent God’s main attractions. Don’t settle for less than all He has for you by taking the wrong exit. Surrender and trust that He is able and wants to break those patterns today! God, no matter where the reader of this blog is in their journey, I pray this would not just be a shallow reading exercise. Break chains, including those in my life, in the name of Jesus.