The Power of Willful Change
"Surely you heard of Him and were taught in Him — in keeping with the truth that is in Jesus — to put off your former way of life, your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be renewed in the spirit of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." ~ Ephesians 4:21-24
What an extraordinary creation of the Creator.
I chose one of the more than two hundred variations of chameleon for today's image because it really is beautiful, but also because I want to discuss change, and chameleons are masters of change.
Unlike the chameleon, we don't want to change according to our environment, we want to change and mould ourselves according to His Word, ever more like our ultimate earthly example.
I believe growth and change and personal evolution are critical if we're going to be the children of God we were created to be.
I'll be real with you. I recently had someone I was once quite close to tell a massive outright purely fabricated lie about me to someone I love very much.
It was a whopper and it wreaked havoc.
Though it stewed for weeks before I found out all of this had transpired, I seem to have hopefully shored up most of the damage and once the whiplash passes, healing should begin to set in.
If I'm honest, I have to fess up to really having had trouble in the aftermath of handling things (hopefully with uncommon levels of grace.)
God was so good in the moment. He clapped His hand over my mouth, and even over my heart. The less gracious things that could have been said, didn't even occur to me until later.
Unfortunately, I found myself really fighting that supremely human inner voice that wishes I could have said the quippy pointed things.
Obviously, my God-lover self is epically grateful I didn't say those things, but in the aftermath, they started to swirl about the grey matter between the ears. Ya know?
In my haste to repair damage, I didn't realize how hurt I was by what went down, but after? The hangover.
The confusion hangover. The disappointment hangover. The sadness hangover.
It all had to be dealt with.
I promise, I haven't lost track of the thread. I'm just setting the stage. :)
So, when we find ourselves being other than/less than we would hope to be, where do we go from there?
Or, one of my favorite play on word choices that accidentally fell out of my mouth one day...
Where do we GROW from there?
Personal change is not a favorite journey for most humans.
For some people in some moments on some themes, it can happen in a moment, for others, it takes time and diligence.
We know we as humans choose to shape and change and evolve and grow out of either a drive toward pleasure or a move away from pain.
In this case, I found (and frankly still find) myself on a repetitive journey of letting it go, choosing forgiveness, and praying for all things bright and beautiful for this person. The prayer becomes more and more authentic the better I'm able to truly let go and forgive.
But, the whole mess had me thinking about change.
I'd very much like to grow into a more gracious, loving, instantly forgiving person.
Which then had me thinking about the HOW of change.
There's an element of habit-breaking and setting aside a well practiced ego when it comes to personal change. The familiar feels safe to us, it feels... well, familiar, so we hold to it on deep levels, even if consciously we know it's not best for us, our loved ones, or the person we're meant to be in the world. So there's work to be done to make lasting internal change.
One of the most powerful questions I've ever been presented on this front was actually a double sided coin pair of questions...
1. What will the impacts be if you are able to make the change you'd like to see?
2. What are the consequences if you don't make the change? For you? For your loved ones? For your daily life? For your future? For your career? etc...
Being aware and breaking down the impacts of the behavior, getting clear on the ugly of the behavior for you and others, can bring a lot of clarity and help make it easier to make new choices.
We have to remember, more often than not, it tends to be a process rather than a moment. If we can build in positive reinforcement and encouragement for making the better choice, that will help anchor in the new behavior.
It doesn't have to be much. Choose a little happy dance that authentically makes you smile, go for it when you've done well, give yourself the gift of that grin, and you give your subconscious a mini-reward and encourage it to opt for the new preferred behavior.
Strange, but true.
Give your subconscious a scooby-snack and it can be trained. :)
Choose ahead of time that you're not only going to make the preferred choice, but you're going to enjoy it when you do.
If we prepare ourselves for delight in the choice, the new behavior sets in faster.
This can be a challenge when there are negative emotions whipped up into a frenzy under the surface.
I used a little mental trick in the recent kerfuffle to make this possible. Whenever my mind set off on wanting to give a piece of itself over to setting straight, venting, or berating in an imagined conversation, or I started to get pulled into the hurt, I remembered the idea of forgiveness actually setting me free.
Yes, maybe it's a little bit selfish. But, I think if that can be leveraged for good to help shift the context and tip the scales to the better, maybe that comes down to the old phrase, what motivates, motivates. Let's use it and make the progress.
If that's the carrot that helps me get better at forgiving those who trespass that I too may be forgiven, I think it's a tool worth leveraging.
I don't believe, however, that those base level mind trick motivation tools will always be necessary. The better we get at it, the better we get. But when things are intense or we're really thrown, it's good to have those extra points of access to forgiveness in our pocket.
So, when I need it, I see the proverbial bird being freed from the cage in my mind's eye. I imagine what the glory of flight would feel like to a temporarily caged wild bird, and I expand in that joy. That's the freedom I reach for, and in that expanded state I willingly surrender to the Father, pray a prayer of forgiveness and blessing over the situation, person, or habit, and let go.
... sometimes again and again.
Call on the Peace that passes all understanding. Have a word with the Savior. Get still and listen.
Whatever brings you to a powerful place to stand and make the choice that best honors the Father and who you know He created you to be, go for it.
Of course, all of this requires that we're paying attention to what's happening on the inside. But, I suspect you already are, or you wouldn't be here having this conversation. I respect that. Good for you for seeking and training yourself in positive change. Every single one of us has room for improvement, always.
And, remember, practice makes progress. (Another little turn of phrase that fell out of my mouth one day and now helps me to anchor.)
Another thought, if the choice you are choosing to transform can be tracked, maybe give yourself a calendar. Each day you successfully make the better choice gets a smiley face or a star.
The number of days of consistent application required to authentically transform a behavior is highly contested. I've heard a wide range of estimates and assessments.
But, remain aware and vigilant over time, and it's absolutely possible.
If it's important to you, you'll find the tools and useful triggers that will get you there.
And, pray. Pray without ceasing. :) Sure helps me. Thank You, Jesus!! :)
He is there. He is good. He is willing and able.
AND, HE LOVES YOU!!!
Thank You for making Your children, capable of change.
You know it's not always easy for us.
Thank You for walking with us and for helping us to have the will to want to walk in Your way, to grow more Christlike, day by day.
Thank You for the gift of knowing You.
Thank You for writing us into Your story.
All these things we pray in Your most Holy Names.
"For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day." ~ 2 Corinthians 4:16
"I put on righteousness, and it clothed me..." ~ Job 29:14a
"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God." ~ Romans 12:2
May the Good Lord bless you and keep you, friends... always, in all ways. Amen.
Bonus song of praise... ♥
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