Apologies to my niece, who happened to say something to me this week that spurred this post. After a short-term mission trip, she told me her experience was life changing. I’ve said the same things–about trips, books, speakers. They made me see things in a new way. I’ve experienced things that would never let me be the same person again.
And yet, frankly, it takes a lot to change my life. Honestly, I have a bookcase filled with life-changing books I don’t really remember. I didn’t follow up my trips to Mexico’s slums by moving to a slum or devoting my life to clean water or financing mission work. Most life-changing events turn out to be little more than a nudge.
A nudge isn’t a bad thing. Enough nudges can actually move a person in the right direction. But it’s so very slow; it can take just short of forever to see movement that has any value. Christian growth shouldn’t be compared to a slug or a glacier, but if we do it by nudge, those analogies work. I know as a Christian I’m to change. I’m to grow and serve and forever become more like Christ and less like me, but everything that gets my mind or heart revving seems to peter out.
A few years ago I had a true life-changing event. I was diagnosed with diabetes, type 1. Before that moment, I never checked my blood sugar, worried about my diet, or gave myself a shot. Never. But since then, I do all those things every single day. My life actually, honestly changed. It’s permanent, because to change back is to die. It’s very simple. Change vs. death leads to change.
I don’t approach spiritual growth and change the same way. How do I convince myself change is worth it if I think of God as someone very nice who won’t mind so much if I drift along, nudged from time to time, generally heading the right direction but moving like a slug? People who truly face death for believing God seem to change and continue forward in a way I don’t. No, regardless of what the Spirit shows me, I seem to default back to…me. Nudged a little, but mostly me. Lazy and comfortable.
If you expected some big answer here, I don’t really have one. I have to convince myself that if I don’t grow, I die. He says the branch that doesn’t produce fruit gets cut off. Not to delve into the controversy of losing salvation, but at its least the statement says if I don’t change and grow and produce fruit I’m as good as dead to God. The duties he has for me in his kingdom aren’t getting done, and I know I don’t want that. I honestly don’t want to be useless.
For two years we’ve been unemployed, and I think I’ve learned a lot of lessons. And yet my biggest fear (besides starvation and living in a box) is that we’ll get a good job and just slide back into our old life with our old perspectives. I’ll forget the unemployed out there, forget what it means to focus on God and not on me, forget everything he’s been pounding into my head for two solid years. The Spirit will bring the lessons to mind and help me continue the changes if I don’t thwart him, but it’s amazing how many things I can engage in to dethrone him and thwart all his work in me.
And I think that thwarting is the key to the whole thing. I’m not on my guard. When God sends a spiritually life-changing event, I need to plan specific changes to accommodate new perspectives. Talk about them, think about them, pray about them, plan for them, live them, and don’t look for new life-changing events until I’ve put into place the previous changes. Find people to hold me accountable, as well. (Community, community, community!) Approach growth like a battleground and make a plan to fight for every piece of higher ground I stand upon.
I don’t want to be a slug in the kingdom of God. I hope to become purposeful and not just let the Spirit nudge me but instead fan the life-changing events of my life into passionate flame.