The Backwards Brain Bicycle: Learning to Ride on the King’s Highway

girl-535251“You cannot heal a lifetime of pain overnight. Be patient with yourself. It takes as long as it take to rebuild yourself.”

Perhaps one of the hardest lessons I am continually learning is that healing takes as long as it takes. Whether it has been a cold or flu, a severely sprained ankle, or depression that seemed to have no end in sight, I have always been the type who wanted to “hurry up and get back to normal.” With a whole world of possibilities and activities out there waiting for me, resting and recuperating feels like a prison. However, over the last few years, my much more patient Creator and Healer has been teaching me to have more respect for the healing process.

This morning, I was crying out to the LORD about why I just couldn’t seem to get over certain past emotional wounds. I want to stop responding to life out of that wounding; sometimes I am successful, sometimes not. He has taken me round and round the proverbial mountain, giving me many opportunities to look at these hurts from through His eyes. I’ve come to know what His Word says about Him and about who I am as His child. God can be trusted to turn my mourning into dancing. Through thick and thin, I have learned that God does care about our broken hearts; He has been faithful in binding up my wounds with love, gentleness, and the truth of His Word. Yet as much as my mind knows the truth, my heart is sluggish in understanding.

From the healing I have had thus far, I have learned that the renewing of our minds through God’s Word is not an instantaneous process. In order to show me why this is so, the Father reminded me of a video I watched recently about an engineer who tried ride a very special bike. This engineer’s experiment is a perfect parable for why it seems like the longest distance in the world is between your head and your heart.

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Destin is an engineer who loves to explore the world using science. Through his YouTube channel and website called Smarter Every Day, Destin shares his experiences and experiments in scientific exploration. Recently, I came across his video called “The Backwards Brain Bicycle.” Destin’s friend had a challenge for him—he built a special bicycle and he wanted Destin to try to ride it. His friend had only changed one thing on the bike: when the handle bar turns to the left the wheel goes to the right; when turned to the right, the wheel goes left. With many years of bike-riding experience, Destin thought this would be an easy challenge. However, as he tried to ride the bike even a few feet, he could not keep his balance.

“I had the knowledge of how to operate the bike,” Destin says in the video, “but I did not have the understanding. Therefore, knowledge is not understanding.” He had to face that there was more involved in what seems to be the simple task of riding a bike. “The algorithm that is associated with riding a bike in your brain is just that complicated….If you change any one part it affects the entire control system.”

Destin takes the bike to conferences and universities, proving this fact to others. He even offered one man $200 just to ride the bike ten feet across the stage. Everyone thought he could do it but the results were the same. “Once you have a rigid way of thinking in your head,” Destin says, “sometimes you cannot change that even if you want to.”

So Destin set himself to a personal challenge: he practiced with this backwards bicycle for about 5 minutes every day. Neighbors made fun of him and he had many wrecks but after 8 months he finally he got it. One day he couldn’t ride the bike and then the next day he could. “It was like I could feel some kind of pathway in my brain that was now unlocked.” Despite the victory in this new pathway, if Destin wasn’t paying close enough attention, his brain would easily lose that neural path and jump back onto the old path it was more familiar with. Any small distractions would instantly throw his brain back into the familiar and he would wreck.

Destin also tried this experiment with his son who had been riding a bike for 3 years—half of his life. It took the young boy only two weeks to learn how to ride this special bike. “A child has more neural plasticity than an adult,” Destin explains. No wonder it is easier for a child to learn a new language than it is for an adult!

In a later experiment, Destin wanted to see if he could ride a regular bike again. Taking his experiment to the streets of Amsterdam, he was surprised to find himself struggling all over again. The whole point of the original experiment was to prove that he could free his brain from a cognitive bias. But it seemed that he could only “re-designate that bias.” It took 20 minutes, but his brain finally clicked back into the old algorithm. 

Destin learned a very important lesson through this experiment—and so did I. Learning to do things in a different way requires a total rewiring of our brains. In the case of spiritual and emotional healing, it means a total rewiring of our brains and our hearts. Where wounding and negative words put us on a pathway of pain, destruction, and darkness, it takes time and perseverance to put us on a new pathway of healing, life, and light—and to stay on it.bicycle-87203

Good or bad, experiences shape who we are and how we think. From the day we are born, the enemy of our souls invests a great deal of time telling us who we are not. He lies to us about who we are and he lies to us about who God is and how God sees us. Although these are lies, we don’t know any better and they become “hard-wired” into our hearts and minds. We become used to viewing things through a particular “bias,” and we are used to responding to life through that bias. Like Destin and the backwards bicycle, we have to be persistent if we want to become re-wired through God’s Word. It takes time digging through God’s Word for the truth. It also means persistently clinging to God as He reshapes us into His image and likeness again. We may gain knowledge of the truth immediately, however understanding take longer.

It took Destin months to learn how to balance and ride on a different type of bike. He was determined to learn!  It didn’t seem to matter how long it would take, how many times he failed or fell back into the old thought patterns or who may have laughed at him along the way. One day it all finally fell into place. The same is true for all of us who cling to the LORD for healing and restoration. I also find encouragement that once Destin learned and practiced a new way of riding, it wasn’t as easy for him to return to the old way. Once we learn and continue to put into practice the truth of God’s Word, we will not find ourselves falling back on our old way of thinking and doing as easily as before.

“Never give up!” says the LORD. “For I will never give up on you. I will never leave or forsake you. No matter how many years you spent on the wrong path, My Spirit will comfort, guide, and teach you as you persist on the right path—the King’s Highway. It takes as long as it takes for you to heal. Be patient with yourself, beloved, for I have great patience with you. I am always there, more than willing to patch up every scratch and dry every tear you have along the way! Remember: a righteous one may fall seven times but he always rises again!”

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