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Muscle Memory Musings

“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:19)

The Isaiah verse above is one of my very favorites. I love the fact that God loves doing new things. Perhaps because my birthday follows soon after the first of the year, perhaps because it is my mother’s favorite holiday, I love the New Year and a new start.

I used to love making resolutions, too. But after so many resolutions, and so many resolute failures at self-empowered attempts to make my life better, I’m more into – Hey, God, what have You got for me to do in me and through me this year? I have also learned that it is much better to not go it alone, better to be in community. As the African proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” I want to go far! As the cliché goes – but it’s true! – life is a marathon, not a sprint.

In my job as a barista, we take advantage of muscle memory – knowing something so well that our bodies know what to do without much thought. The goal is to create “uplifting daily moments” (i.e., customer satisfaction) by giving the customer their (hopefully) high-quality drink and food as quickly as possible with a friendly experience. In order to do this, we need to create patterns using muscle memory (learned through repeatable routines), knowing where things are on the screen, getting into the flow of making 2-3 drinks at a time, even if there are 15 drinks on the bar, collecting money, handing out the order, not getting flustered. When I’m at the drive-thru window, my goal during peak hours is to have customers get their drink and be gone within 30 seconds – and be happy. Doesn’t always happen, but you’d be surprised how quickly the line can go if everything works well.

I feel that changes in our lives can happen if our “muscle memory” changes. At my work, there seems to be a lot of change regularly, trying to switch things up to make productivity go up and waste go down. But we baristas have learned to flex with this; our brains have been trained to forge new muscle memory patterns quickly.

What if we treated our lives like this? What if we threw off what is comfortable – even if not the best for us – and changed it up for something new, something life-giving? What if we flexed, leaned into a new routine? And what if we gave up our own self-sufficiency, and let God’s Spirit lead the way? What if we did this not as a lone hero but as an important part of the Avengers? We need community!

Jesus reminds us: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. …[And] you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-38)

What if this year we ask God to change us to love him, show his love to others, and love ourselves – no matter how uncomfortable or unfamiliar that is to us? Are we impatient in situations, like being in long lines or traffic? We could listen to a good podcast, look forward to these down times. Do we tend to react with less grace than we should to others? Ask God to give us a buffer from our ungraciousness (count to 3, say a quick prayer) before reacting and judging. Are we stressed out and anxious? Build into our lives a time of meditation every day and relax in God’s presence. Are we eating our emotions/not treating our bodies right? Join a group or get an accountability partner to love ourselves more by being healthier in body (and mind). What area in our lives can we share with the least, the lost, and the left behind? Whatever it is, talk about it with others, don’t go it alone.

Enjoy yourself this year. Do a new thing! Flex and lean into change, create new muscle memory, new ways of doing life. And share your story with others.

Kelly can be reached via email.

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