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What God has taught me about change

"Through the example of Jesus, we see that the Glory of God is best seen in our lives when we step confidently into scenarios where we know upfront that we don't have enough. But we are trusting fully in our God to equip us for the task that is at hand." - Priscilla Shirer

When God calls me into situations where I don't have enough, usually He is asking me to change something about myself. Either, I need a new perspective, to adjust a belief, create better habits, or change states - figuratively and literally. Eighteen months ago, my husband and I followed God's call to move from Springfield, Missouri to a beautiful rural town in Michigan to serve as pastors of a church. This was exciting and full of change! For me, God was throwing change in my face, which would require immense internal adjustments. I left the first place I called home. I loved (and still do love) Springfield, Missouri. While living there I experienced the feeling of stability for the first time in my life. I had family and friendships that I could count on. I felt safe, loved, and finally secure.

So when God called our family to leave my safety, I felt that deep pull of inadequacy for the task in front of us. While we trusted God to equip us, I felt God's gentle and firm call to combat my inner fears and evaluate my priorities. God was after a change in my heart. God always uses major transitions to expose areas that I need to change to become who He has created me to be. More often than not, I have walked through His journey of change on my own by utilizing the worst tactics from pure laziness to avoid the change to shame to motivate internal change. In the end, those efforts have failed miserably and I am left with a deep feeling of inadequacy--not enough.

We make change harder when we try to do it on our own.

Inadequacy coupled with a fearful spirit wreak havoc to a successful transformation. Inadequacy is not the main problem in the journey, it is the combination of its deadly cousin fear that causes growth to halt. When I desire for a specific area of my life to change there will always be a point or many points in time when the reality of what I am lacking will be apparent. How I respond to my own limitation exposes what I value.

My first learned motivation for change is a deep feeling of shame. My childhood trained me to use shame to motivate change. Unless I reached an idealistic perfection with the perfect controlled environment, I would feel shame pushing me past any possible failure at the expense of my physical and mental health. When I respond this way to change my value and highest priority are stability and increasing my status. My inner voice (and sometimes actual voice) says, "Change. What is all the fuss about? It is super easy. I love it. Bring it on." Unless stated ironically, nobody likes people who say this about change. Still, I desire to show how stable and self-sufficient I am, achieving a falsely elevated status in front of people who don't care about me on a deep level. This motivation for change is pressure-filled and isolating. I end up abandoning my journey of change out of fear of failure. Shame is a powerful initial motivation but will destroy everything in its path, like a malfunctioning firework.

Another motivation for change is a lazy-river approach to life. This is great for vacations but is ultimately self-absorbed and ineffective. I personally believe we have all had an "anything goes" attitude towards goals, especially diet-related ones. This lazy-river approach to change is when I say to myself, I will try it out and see what happens. If it doesn't work this time, I will wait until the next time I pass by this spot. In this attempt to change, I experience the temporary relief of trying to change without any expectation of success. This lets me off the hook. I don't need to actually change, because it really is the thought that counts. When I respond this way my internal value is my own comfort and self-preservation. This really exposes a lack of personal responsibility in my own journey. We all know people like this and they don't have very many friends or much to do. We all cherish people who try to get better and are honest with their own failings rather than hiding in their self-constructed temple to the god of comfort. We all recognize when someone is developmentally stuck, checked out on their own personal lazy-river circle. Hopefully, I can learn to recognize when I sacrificed my will on the altar to appease the god of comfort.

How should we respond when circumstances change?

Change is not always internally motivated but can be and often is thrown upon us. The move to Michigan felt like being thrown into the deep end of the pool after only successfully swimming once on my own. So sometimes, change forces a response from us. We can respond with a desire for perfection and use shame to motivate an idealized response. Or we can value our comfort and ignore the change happening around us. For me, the hardest response to change is inactivity due to crippling fear. Sometimes the idea of change causes hopelessness. I know that I battled this reaction when we first moved. I was so overwhelmed by the flurry of change that I experienced the paralyzation of any action. I could not find the motivation to move forward because the unknown was anxiety-producing and untameable. When I respond with inaction I am placing too high a value on safety and rules rather than on reliance on God. Sometimes it is easier to sit in your mess than commit to the hard work that change requires.

I have personally experienced a ton of change, witnessed a lot of change and I have seen so many people get stuck and stop growing. It is tempting to only focus on all the ways that someone else has failed in their journey of change. We can easily recognize when others are overvaluing stability and status or when they are left reeling in the cycle of perfectionism to failure to shame. Their growth ends up stagnating in the end. However, the most important lesson I learned about change is that I can only change myself if I love myself the way God loves me.

How do we change?

The motivation for change in any area of life needs to start with love. Whether I want to respond with less irritability when I am tired or I choose to eat more salads instead of chips, I have to start with valuing love. Love is the only sustainable and healthy motivation for change. It is God's loving-kindness that leads us to repentance, which is the truest form of change, completely changing the direction of your life. When I am motivated to change out of a deep sense of being completely and undeniably loved, I can be, with dedication, successful. That is how God equips me for the impossible tasks - through His daily pouring out of love. I have to continually acknowledge, accept and seek out a deeper understanding of the complexity and totality of God's love for me.

Love is the only sustainable and healthy motivation for change.

Almost fifteen years ago I was on a similar journey of major change and motivated by stability, status, my own comfort, and self-preservation. Most importantly, I wanted to remain safe at all costs. I was in a cycle of earning love through action. Stuck going around in circles feeling like I could actually accomplish the change and earn a reason to love myself. I wanted to have something to point to as to why God loved me. However, God loves me in my inadequacy. He loves me in my endless chaos. He loves me without reason, recklessly. The completeness of His love is the only true motivation to change. If God can love me, then I can love myself. Out of that love, I can believe He will walk next to me at this moment and help me change. God will help me see the areas I need to improve and by spending time with Him, I will learn how to change.

By Samantha Jones

Edited by Keith Jones

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