Sunday Night Musings: Fixed Action Patterns

Our message tonight at church was from a local representative from World Vision. He shared about a literary technique called "fixed action pattern." It shows up in psychology and ethnology and probably several other areas. It means that a character or a person keeps on doing what they've always done in life. If a person grows up being afraid of water, they're going to avoid water as they get older as well unless something changes. The element of change is called a "moving action pattern" (at least according to our speaker--I was never taught this in my literature classes, but the premise still works).

Jesus is a constant moving action pattern. His fixed action pattern as you read the gospels is to go through some town. But then something happens. He sees Zaccheus up in a tree. He asks a woman at a well for water. He encounters a funeral possession for a widow's son.

And Jesus reacts/interacts/acts upon the situation. He calls Zaccheus down and stays at his house. He talks to the woman about her life and she tells the town about the Messiah. He raises the dead boy. And lives are changed. Life is always the outcome--a fuller life, a better life, life instead of death.

Tasks never trump people with Jesus. He'll stop what He's doing and talk with someone or help them. Almost any interaction with someone becomes an opportunity for a "moving action pattern."

Our day-to-day living is constant fixed action patterns. If you're like me, it becomes easy to becomes fixed on the task at hand. We get in fixed-action-ruts.

My days are more memorable when I take advantage of moving action moments. When I stop and play with a lonely student during recess duty rather than just watching and making sure everyone is getting along well. When I interact with the cashier rather than just make my purchase and get out of the store. When I invite my child to cook with me rather than just doing it myself and letting them watch television.

So being a good World Vision representative, he shared during dessert time about helping to bring clean water to children who don't have it (via a half marathon). There are plenty of cross-cultural moving action moments that we can take advantage of--simple things we can do to change the life of someone in the world:

I could go on and on, of course. We all know plenty of organizations through which we can make a difference. We don't always do it. And it's not just about sending money somewhere. It's just as much about stopping the lawn mower to talk with our neighbor when we see them rather than keep on mowing. So let's get out of our fixed action patterns and change the world. One action at a time.

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