Friday, June 12, 2015

It's Just Instinct

My daughter, Alannah, and I were traveling to New Brunswick and had stopped for lunch. Before we hit the road again we decided to visit the public restroom only to find a line up of people waiting their turn for a stall. Alannah was behind me in the line but when it came to be my turn, without thinking, I told her she could go. The lady who was next after Alannah told me how nice it was that I had done that, but I hadn't honestly meant to be nice, it was just instinct. You take care of your children before you take care of yourself regardless if they are 2 or 21. 

There are many things that we do by instinct and probably never think about until someone points them out to us by commenting on them. Like when you are traveling in the car and have to slam on your breaks quickly, doesn't your arm fly across your passenger's chest? Mine does even though logic would tell me that the seatbelt will help them much more than my arm's feeble attempt, but I come from the era before seat belts and throwing your arm across your passenger is just instinct. 

I believe that we are born with certain instincts and others can be learned by repetition. A baby cries, by inborn instinct, when it is hungry or needs help. The mother, instinctively, goes to the child and takes care of it. They are both born with these instincts. I marvel at the precision of training a marine or Navy Seal must go through. Each phase of their training is repeated again and again and again until they instinctively react to each situation they encounter in the desired way. 

Instincts are important to have. In some cases having good instincts will keep us alive. I instinctively pray. I have prayed so many times in my life that now there are times when my spirit is hurting that I find myself praying without consciously setting out to do so. When I am hurting or angry or thankful or happy or sad I pray. When I'm lonely, I pray. When I'm confused, I pray. I pray. I know that God is there listening, so I pray. 

Maybe my instinct to pray is a learned instinct. After all didn't the disciples ask the Lord to teach them to pray? My mother taught me to pray. She insisted on it before every meal and before bedtime. So it became a habit or an instinct. But I believe even those who never had a mother who taught them to pray have the inborn instinct to pray. I believe God put it there, inside of us, when He was forming us in our mother's womb, because He wants to have a connection with each of us.

Some people fight against that connection but it's still there. We instinctively know there is a God but what we may not instinctively know is that He wants to have a close, personal relationship with us. He wants to hear from us through prayer. He wants our spirit to be open to His so He can speak to us. And just like a mother protects her child, He wants to protect us and keep us safe. 

Just like a Marine has to endure repetitive training to instill the desired instinct in him, I believe that as parents we have the mandate from God to train our children to have the instincts to turn to Him. Throughout the Word we are told to train our children in the things of the Lord. Because my mother insisted on prayer before every meal, I pray. Because she insisted we attend church ever Sunday, it became a habit, an instinct, a learned behaviour if you will. And I'm glad she did. When church attendance becomes an option it no longer has the ability to become an instinctive behaviour. 

I've heard it said that if you do anything for 31 days in a row, it will become a lifelong habit. I'm not sure about that but I think the person who said it was certainly on to something. I know that I have prayed all of my life. It is an inborn and a learned instinct. What instinct do you want to learn? What instinct do you want to instill in your children? Whatever it is begin today and repeat it every day until it becomes a natural response.

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