I set out into this year with a pretty simple, albeit, kind of intangible goal: Let hard things change me instead of trying to change the hard things.
So, about that.
I have been reminded lately that when you start praying to see change in your own life, you will, in turn, start to see the things in your life that need changing.
And, as it would be, I have recently become convicted of some pieces of myself that need changing.
They are things which, were we to sit down and discuss them over coffee (that sounds nice, actually), wouldn’t overly alarm you. They are “small” things–mindsets, habits, tendencies. They are pieces of my personality that I could probably chalk up to, “Well that’s just how I am,” if I really wanted to.
But I’ve always believed that particular excuse to be moo¹ and sneakily able to hold me back from who God wants (and calls) me to be.
And so, for a few weeks, I tried to change. I said various generic statements to myself:
Stop feeling that way.
Stop thinking like that.
Stop worrying about this.
But then nothing changed.
I still felt like the ugly things had some fingernail holds, and I couldn’t shake them despite how many times I prayed that they would just go away.
It was then that I stumbled into a few verses from Psalm 119.
Those verses stuck in my brain. I thought about them and thought about them and thought about them, and realized that I had been trying to get rid of the ugly parts of my soul without replacing them with anything Good and Worthwhile. I was just willing them to leave and then hoping to just move on without them.
I don’t think that’s how transformation works.
It was when I started inclining myself toward Truth that I noticed my heart start to change. It was when I started to prioritize the time I spent reading through what God promises and wants for me that I realized how futile it was to try to change without actively acknowledging what He actually had to say about any of it.
And it was then that I started to feel the life in His ways.
(Although I certainly still have a long way to go.)
And then, a few days ago, I read an essay Sarah Bessey wrote² which subsequently helped cross a few more “t’s” in this particular train of thought.
Here’s an excerpt from the end of her essay:
I think that conviction has gotten a bit of a bad rap in the Church over the past little while. It’s understandable. We have an overcorrection to a lot of the legalism and boundary-marker Christianity that damaged so many, the behaviour modification and rule-making and imposition of other people’s convictions onto our own souls.
But in our steering away from legalism, I wonder if we left the road to holiness or began to forget that God also cares about what we do and how we do it and why.
Conviction is less about condemnation than it is about invitation. It’s an invitation into freedom. It’s an invitation into wholeness.
Perhaps our choices towards those invitations from God are really an intersection for our agency or free will and the Holy Spirit’s activity – maybe that’s where transformation begins.
Conviction is less about condemnation than it is about invitation.
It’s an invitation into freedom.
It’s an invitation into wholeness.
This is the kind of change I want for myself.
And what I’m seeing clearly is that accepting the invitation into wholeness is not passive.
Transformation will not just happen to me by sheer willpower alone.
It starts with the choice to change and is heavily dependent on what I choose to fill myself with. And then?
The promise of life and wholeness through the transforming work of the Spirit.
And, well, that seems pretty worth it to me.
¹ If this reference is not lost on you, then we are already friends, and you understand me on a very deep level.
² Here is the link to Sarah Bessey’s essay again. It made me think about a lot of things. It might make you think about a lot of things, too. You should read it in its entirety, and then we can discuss it over coffee.