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People love systems and procedures. There is nothing inherently wrong with that. In fact, God designed humans with a built-in recording system, one that can be programmed to memorize systems and procedures to your great advantage. The recording mechanism is the nervous system, with countless interconnections between nerves throughout the body. One property of the system is that the more often you send signals down a certain path, messages that jump in a specific order from one nerve to the next to produce a desired action, the more locked-in that pathway becomes. It’s like the busiest roadways in the largest cities; have you seen them? The endless passing tires carve out grooves in the roads. Or, like a river that cuts a channel into a mountain because it has flowed there for a thousand years.

However, what’s even more stunning about the nervous system is that if the pathway is not efficient, it will grow new connections, novel pathways that are shorter and straighter, which are then memorized to run on automatic. What advantage does this serve? Well, just think about tying your shoelaces. Or better yet, don’t think about it! And that’s the point; you don’t have to think about it.

You have repeated the pattern so often that now all you have to do is initiate the path and it seems to run on autopilot. You can do just about anything and tie your shoes at the same time. People that play musical instruments learn patterns and eventually, their fingers do the walking with what appears to be no conscious effort. In both cases, it did not start out like that. It was a repetitive step-by-step process until it became “natural.” The pattern of message transmission has, in a sense, carved efficient paths, like tire grooves in a road or river channels through a mountain. And there are so many other examples in which these efficient patterns of message transmission are advantageous: typing, sports, dancing, driving, professional skills, etc. The nervous system learns efficient pathways and builds new connections as needed—then the nerves fire on autopilot to produce consistent reproducible actions—in other words, methodical duplicatable patterns that seem unconscious. We humans seem to use this type of system-building in just about everything, and most times it is beneficial. However, when we apply these system-building tendencies to relationships, things don’t go so smoothly. It seems that humans don’t respond well to their connections with loved ones being overridden by an oblivious system that requires no conscious effort, no thoughtfulness. No one wants to be in a mechanical relationship that is built on autopilot—human connections nurtured by “methodical duplicatable patterns that seem unconscious.” And let me assure you, nor does God.

When we build our relationship with God into a system of rules and procedures—that is called religion. And when we insist others adhere to our preferred system of rules and procedures—that is called legalism. Legalism is equivalent to strangle-ism. It’s the way we choke the life out of our relationship with God. God is not interested in your legalism or your religion; He is, nevertheless, interested in a relationship. Don’t turn your relationship with God into a religionship with God. If you do, you will actually be worshiping a God of your own creation, one who would command you to sit back and rest on the Sabbath, while you watch a man suffer. You will have created a God who would prefer you to strictly adhere to Sabbath rules, rather than heal a man who had been suffering his whole life. Trust me, if you think that the Father of our blessed Savior Y’shua would choose Sabbath prohibitions over a man’s life, you are in a religionship with Him, not a relationship.