I have done some thinking on the way people act towards one another. Often, we seem to act in repeated patterns, in spite of the foolishness and pain they experience.

Of course: one of the great things about an old friendship is familiarity. To be known and still respected/appreciated/loved is such a good thing. This is a comfort many chase and hope to gain. These friendships are a place of safety and refuge when life is difficult.

Too much comfort turns to complacency. Too much regularity becomes ritual. We settle.

Anyone who’s been married for three years knows the dangers I describe. But this doesn’t just happen in marriage… but with all kinds of relationships, from teammates to roommates. The sheer weight of regularity becomes oppressive. A pattern emerges and takes form and it settles in with a death grip. Think python wrapped around the little mouse.

I’ve not bothered to put scriptures behind these observations, proof-texted or otherwise. See for yourself if I’ve seen something that’s true.

Destructive relational patterns are POWERFUL because they are nearly invisible.

You don’t think much about the air you breathe, and neither do I. You don’t think much about what you say to your pattern-mates… watch and see how much of it is SCRIPTED … how the responses and inside jokes and greetings and sarcastic remarks are repeated with alarming regularity. Sure, you think about some of the things you say. You think about just a little, but it’s enough to convince yourself that you have fresh, honest, and open dialogue. Most of the time, we’re trapped in a destructive pattern and we can’t even see it, we only know the suffocating devastation it visits upon our lives. Our choices become limited, our destiny jammed into a rut. Its power is absolute. The snake is invisible because the mouse is blind to it.

Even once they are recognized for what they are, destructive relational patterns cause HOPELESSNESS because they seem invulnerable and unbreakable. The very nature of a pattern is that it has been around for a while and proven it’s no fad or flash in the pan. Once seen, the pattern empties us in our deepest places. What’s the strongest substance you can imagine? Stone? Steel? Nothing is unbreakable like a hopelessness that has taken root within a heart. It has a strength that defies fury. It mocks passion. How can a mouse think to escape the python? Seeing the serpent just makes things worse.

Discerning the pattern sets us up to new possibilities: new hope takes root, and next to it destructive relational patterns sow seeds of the FEAR of the unknown. It is so difficult to change, it is nearly impossible to step out into the unknown. There are many daredevils and risk takers, but I tell you none of them to so naturally in the arena of the heart. They might climb mountains, make provocative statements, or plan hostile corporate takeovers… but it is human nature to ignore our insecurities and turn away from our shadows. While caught up in a destructive relational pattern we don’t want to be exposed: often the pattern’s back can only be broken against the revealing of our weaknesses.

So we open our eyes, and we see the pattern for what it is. We become an academic and study it with reckless abandon. We look deep within, and we look deep without. Build a microscope and build a telescope so that you might examine wisely.

We remember the power of the One within us. The power that rose Jesus from the dead is available to us. We are not just students, but supplicants as well. Setting everything before the cross and relying on his hope, his light, to drive our change.

As we take action based on what we’ve learned and who is walking by our side, we refuse to let fear keep us trapped. Considering the promises of God, his love for us, will drive out all fear.

Are you stuck in a pattern that’s destructive? What will you do? What are you unwilling to face?