The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.
Lately, I have been thinking quite a bit about change and the motivation for change. All of us, if we are insightful or self-aware at all, have been in a position where we recognize a need to change our behaviors, attitudes, and life patterns. However, its not just about us, but in our personal relationships and workplace, we are bound to incredibly flawed people, who like ourselves, require change.
The Christian experience is described as an experience of change. We are to be experiencing continual change of character and essence, as God continues to shape us into the character and mission of Jesus. (II Cor 3:18, 5:17). Yet, our experience demonstrates that God does not simply zap us as changed, but works collaboratively with us for change.
I also recognize that not all change is as critical as others. Someone with a life-robbing addiction is not the same as the person who desires to trim 5 lbs so that the pants fit better. However, I am struck by the true difficulty of true change, even when the need is critical and the ramifications are immense.
So a couple of principles of change:
1. No change occurs without a clear sense of what a changed person or lifestyle looks like. Moving away from what is not working is not enough. Movement must be towards something tangible and clear.
2. Motivation to change must be internal. If the energy to drive change is external (from another, or due to the situation), the likelihood of real change is diminished.
3. No change occurs without introducing a new knowledge, new structures, or new practices. Change will not occur without intentionality.
4. Changing a particular practice requires changing the entire context and culture that fosters that particular behavior.
So, lets see this in an example. Lets say Robert drinks too much. His drinking is interfering with his relationships and places him dangerous situations. So the first thing that must happen is that Robert must imagine what a sober lifestyle looks like. He must see himself as sober and the implications of sobreity. His imagination should consider what his relationships, his social life, and his day looks like when he is Sober.
Secondly, Robert must be the primary driver for change. Robert will not change until Robert decides that he wants to change. No amount of pressure from significant others or deteriorating social situations will drive lasting change. One of the many errors that well meaning friends and lovers make is to think that they can will or drive others to change.
Thirdly, Robert can not change because he simply wants to. He must learn a new way of doing things, or introduce new information or guidance. This is why Alcoholics involved in AA are asked to go to 90 meetings in 90 days. Change must be bathed in new structures, communities, and guidance. So if Robert states he will change, but nothing is different in what he doing or who he is hanging out with, then change is highly unlikely.
Fourthly, Robert doesn't drink alone but drinks in a social context. He must discerningly look at the social contexts that encourages and demands the behavior that he seeks to stop. Robert can not hang out with people who are drinking heavily or visit places where he typically drinks and think that he can stop.
While I used drinking, the same principles effect everything from lying and inappropriate language, to compulsive sexual activity and drug addiction.
Real change is a gift of God, but it is not without our collaboration and requires our deepest investment to change. I am speaking as one who personally knows that change takes real work.
If you are struggling with a change that you know needs to happen in order to fulfill your purpose and be as healthy as possible, take time to review these four points and ask God to give you the strength and drive for life long change.
Pastor M Traylor