Thursday, October 23, 2014

Change: Rarely Easy, But Often Worth It

A friend has been going through a rough patch. She’s experiencing change, making the transition from a PC to a Mac. Change is hard, I know. In fact, I’ve made the switch from a Mac to a PC (not my choice), and years later from a PC back to a Mac (definitely my choice.). Many times change proves very worthwhile, but it takes time to make the adjustment.

In the technology world, change is non-negotiable. Have you just bought a new computer, or tablet, or smartphone? Congratulations. It will be obsolete within six months at the latest. Surely you’ll want to swap what you’ve got for the latest and greatest, right?

But change isn’t just a technological phenomenon. It’s a recurring theme throughout life. The simple act of being born is quite a change in itself. No wonder the first thing babies do is cry: “Put me back in that womb, right now!”

Crawling, standing and walking are just
the first of many changes we face in life.
Then little Johnny or Johanna figures how to do tricks like roll over (“See, Rover, I can do that, too!”) and crawl. They’re just mastering that skill, setting land-speed records in the infant crawl, and mommy and daddy start coaxing them to walk. Stand up. Wobble a bit. Take a tentative step or two. Then collapse on their bottom. “Ok, enough of this walking stuff. I’m all for crawling from now on!” But parents have none of it, and before long Junior or Missy is high-stepping all the way down the mall.

Changes, of course, are just starting. There’s potty training, preschool, kindergarten and elementary school. Difficult changes for both child and parents, watching their progeny start to progress through the stages of life. Driver’s license. High school. Dating. College. Exciting, sometimes traumatic. Changes that are inevitable, that must be addressed.

Next are major events like a first full-time job, getting married (at least for some people these days), having children of their own, changing jobs, moving from apartment to house, selling house and buying another, changing jobs again, and so on. We learn that besides death and taxes, the only constant is change.

The same is true spiritually. I can remember cruising along in life, thinking I had everything under control, when suddenly I had a life-changing encounter with God. I had occasionally performed some religious act, like attending a church service, but most of my life probably looked as if I were a practical atheist. If I had been charged with being a follower of Christ, there wouldn’t have enough evidence to convict.

Then, while I was delightfully minding my own business, God interrupted. Some of the changes He brought about in my life – and the life of my family – were instant. Others have come slowly, day by day. That’s what theologians call “sanctification,” the process God uses for transforming our lives from what we once were to what He wants us to be.

Spiritual change is as difficult as any other kind. In 2 Corinthians 5:17 we’re told, “Therefore, if anyone in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.” But this doesn’t mean the new life we receive is easy. It requires unlearning old, destructive habits through the power of Christ, while learning new, productive ones. Sometimes aspects of our former life still seem appealing.

Romans 12:2 instructs, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Again, easier said than done, because it means being willing to change from what someone has termed “stinkin’ thinkin’” and choosing instead to adopt a new mindset based on what God has revealed in the Scriptures. Sometimes this change can occur quickly, but often it takes place at tortoise speed.

Reading the Bible, it’s evident God is all for change; He’s in the deconstruction and reconstruction business: “Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:18-19).

So becoming a new creation in Christ takes time; it’s a process. Like a master sculptor approaching a piece of granite to create a magnificent sculpture, God comes to us in a similar manner. He’s bringing about change – sometimes uncomfortable, even painful – gently and patiently chipping away everything that doesn’t look like Jesus, so that one day we’ll experience the truth of 1 John 3:2, “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”

And you thought changing from a PC to a Mac was an achievement!

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