And so I insist—and God backs me up on this—that there be no going along with the crowd, the empty-headed, mindless crowd. They’ve refused for so long to deal with God that they’ve lost touch not only with God but with reality itself. They can’t think straight anymore. Feeling no pain, they let themselves go in sexual obsession, addicted to every sort of perversion.
But that’s no life for you. You learned Christ! My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to Him, been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus. Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces His character in you.
– Ephesians 4:17-24 (MSG)
Discovering the need for change
It doesn’t happen overnight. You make a choice here, a choice there. You linger a little longer than you should. You let yourself focus on what should be ignored. Suddenly, you find yourself off of the path you started on, lost in a tangle of thistles. You didn’t intend to go there, didn’t intend to stray so far.
Distraction happens to the best of us. We get lazy, lax, and perhaps a trifle arrogant. We think that we don’t have to keep up the vigilance. Whatever pain or problem that drove us to fling ourselves fully upon the grace of God has faded. We are forgetful. Something temporary catches our eyes. We pull away from the Father and reach out our hands to grasp whatever it is that promises satisfaction and fulfillment. How surprised we are when it turns out to be fleeting and hollow, how shocked to find that we can’t sense the presence of God. Fearfully, we try to push through the stinging thorns and make our way back to where we last saw Him.
Our bodies are covered in scrapes and bruises resulting from our efforts at escape. Our clothes are torn and tattered. We’re as stuck as we ever were. Giving in to despair, we sit among the brambles, wincing at the pain. We can’t do it. We can’t get back to that place of light and life, so we might as well settle.
Looking down at our hands, we notice that one is balled up in a fist. Closed tightly around something precious. Slowly, one finger at a time, we ease the clenching to gaze at what’s held. It’s the thing. The temporary thing. The thing that once looked so bright and shiny. The thing that is now dingy and ugly. The thing that cuts into the soft skin of our palms, sending a trickle of blood down our wrists.
What do we desire more than change?
The cost of straying from that narrow way is high. Even a moment off of the road can end with us entangled, entrapped. We don’t want to be there, in that darkness, and so we try to flee. But we don’t realize that we cannot get out until we let the thing go.
Truth is, sometimes we just don’t want to.
No matter how dearly it comes, no matter how much it hurts, we want the thing–the job, the relationship, the money, the power, the fame, the drug, the clothes, the body. We think we can have it and a healthy relationship with God. We fool ourselves.
God has a plan for each of our lives. A good plan. A plan that keeps us safe. We know this. We can recite Jeremiah 29:11 in our sleep.
But, we don’t believe it.
If we did believe it, we’d be done chasing the things. We’d turn our eyes upon Jesus, as the song instructs, and let everything but Him fade away. Somewhere in the back of our minds, in those parts we haven’t submitted to His Lordship, we hold back. We long for something else, something more. As if there could be more and better than God. As if we are wiser than the fount of all wisdom.
I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of tangoing with that prickly bush. I never win. I think I’m going to control it every time, but every time it controls me.
I need a change. We need a change.
It starts with our “want to.”
God, grace us with the want to change. We’re not smart enough to simply do as You command. Our very desires need reworking. Right now, in our cores, where it really counts, we don’t want to. Give us the ability to want to. We can’t be the people You created us to be as long as we hold on to these old habits. Help us, Jesus. Help us to let go.
When we do let go, when we drop the thing, it’s as if our vision is immediately cleared. We see the thing for what it really is. We cry out to God with sincere repentance, begging Him to come and rescue us. We wonder if He will hammer us. The tears pour down our cheeks at the shame of disappointing Him. We think He’ll never look at us the same way again.
How strange it is to find ourselves enveloped in His arms, welcomed back onto the path with no words of condemnation. He cleans up our cuts and binds our brokenness. It hurts. The soreness will linger as a reminder, a consequence. He gives us new clothes to wear. We look down at our feet, encased in new shoes of gleaming white. The tears don’t stop. They dot the canvas, the laces. We are too afraid to look up at Him.
Tenderly, lovingly, He touches our chins with His fingers. We can see the holes in His hands, blurred by our grief. His voice, soft yet commanding, bids us to meet His gaze.
Wonder of wonders, there is delight on His face.