Garden jogging leads to reflection on well-worn paths — Debbie Hemmens

‘Running path’ in the author’s garden.

It’s lockdown in South Africa at the moment because of the COVID-19 pandemic that has swept across our world. It has caused all sorts of different activities to surface as people are not able to go out unless they need food or medical care. South Africa has been one of the countries with the strictest restrictions with people not even being allowed out to walk their dogs. Some people came up with the idea of doing a marathon in your property over the 21-day lockdown, which means at the very least doing 2km per day. For most this is quite a few laps around your house or garden — for me it’s 17 laps.

The other day my son pointed out the paths around the yard of where we had been running and I took a photo, and as I looked at the photo, a whole lot of thoughts came to mind (one being that I hope we don’t create trenches before lockdown is over), hence this blog.

God often speaks to me through analogies and I love how the messages stay with me because there’s generally a picture or image involved. I am a visual learner – -He knows that. It also reminds me of how Jesus used parables when he was here on earth.

As a person keeps walking through the same trail, it becomes a well-worn path… a clear way to go forward. Now, although our garden looks a bit like a jungle at the moment, because we were unable to get the grass-cutting guys in before lockdown, I really don’t think anyone is going to come and do a trail hike here anytime soon. I know I have always appreciated, when out on a trail or hike, that I can easily see the way to go, thanks to the many people who have gone before me on the same path, creating something that clearly shows the way ahead.

It, first of all, reminded me of a song we used to sing that had the word ancient paths in it and I went to Google and the Bible to try find some correlating verses. Interestingly I found something written by a man named Nick who was commenting on Psalm 119 with its 176 verses. He was saying how every verse is a variation of saying the same thing, about how much the writer loves God’s law, but each is still different. Jeremiah 6:16 says Stand at the crossroads and look, ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.

God’s Word has been around a long time, but it still offers the same that it offered when it first came from the mouth of God. It gives us direction, hope, comfort and shows us how to live a holy and righteous life. Each word is a well-worn path that shows us a clear way forward. Psalm 119:1 says Those whose way is blameless, who walk in the Lord’s instruction, are truly happy.

New habits
The other thing that has been spoken about a lot because of lockdown is habits. Many people know and agree that it takes 21 days to create a new habit, so many people were looking to do that. Habits are things that we do repeatedly until they don’t work anymore, they just become normal and a part of us.

I have read a lot from the writings of Dr Caroline Leaf, a neuroscientist who has put such a new spin on how our brains work that she has made many realise how you really can change what goes on inside your brain. We have a network of “branches” in our brains and our thoughts are attached to these branches. Our repetitive thoughts (well-worn paths) create grooves in our brain and we can get stuck by having bad thoughts and feel captive to them (bad habits). With over 60 000 thoughts per day, it’s quite important that we make them good and helpful ones.

So how do we create new habits or better thoughts if we have bad habits or unhelpful ones? 21 days of a new thought or habit is the only way to do it. We cannot unlearn in a vacuum, we have to replace that which we don’t want. Dr Leaf suggests that sometimes you need to do another 21 days detox if you haven’t changed the belief or habit after the first 21 days. It’s another case of well-worn paths. There’s an interesting process that happens inside your brain as you change your focus — there’s a kind of “brain glue” that holds our thoughts in place to the various branches or networks. As you start to use deep thinking and change your focus to a new and better thought, it loosens the “glue” and then it moves to the new thought to hold it in place the more you focus on it. It really is like changing pictures in your brain. Fascinating.

The big question, I suppose, is what do we want in our thoughts, habits and actions? We become what we repeatedly do. I am thankful for some good, well-worn paths in my life, things that have been to my benefit, the primary one being my relationship with God and reading His Word over and over again until it is wired into my brain. It has been a lamp and a light to my path.

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