It seem that no matter how much things change, the more they remain the same. Here we are, barely into the new year and already it is starting to look an awful lot like every year before. The promise of heady resolutions made at the turn of the year lies largely unfulfilled in the realization that resolutions alone do not bring change. Instead, they function like promises made to ourselves – empty unless acted upon. Turning a life is only equaled in difficulty and distance required by the skill and miles needed to turn a supertanker at full-speed on the high seas. There are exceptions, of course, but lives that can turn on a dime typically weren’t going anywhere fast in the first place.
That is why the most effective strategy for long-term life change tends to small, incremental changes that are given time to settle in before the next series. The appearance can sometimes resemble a drifting into a new way of life, but it is far from that. There is a long term strategy and direction with a high level of tactical awareness requiring vigilance and determination. Patience is required, and persistence – especially when nothing seems to be happening. It is also best to keep your eyes focused in the moment with only occasional glances at the horizon marker to make sure you are on course, and at the port from which you sailed to let you know that, indeed, progress has been made. If you try and live a year at a time, you will be frustrated - life is meant to be lived a day, a moment, at a time.
The real advantage of this strategy is that it fits the kind of people we are. Very few of us like sudden and constant change – but we can handle small changes over time that get us to where we want to go at an acceptable speed. Think of the engineers designing the freeway systems. There aren’t many sharp turns! They know that introducing a sharp turn into the 405 south would back traffic up to the Grapevine – the slow, gradual, even graceful arc of the “South Bay curve” keeps things flowing more or less at speed.
Jesus knows that we are built more for comfort than for speed – He lovingly has accommodated himself to our way of being. While He could change us instantly, He instead leads us gradually into a new way of being more appropriate to the Kingdom towards which we move. It may take longer than any of us want – but we will arrive. Another way might be quicker, but the chances of catastrophic breakdown along the way are greatly increased. So He comes along side and teaches us how to work, how to live, how to rest. And how to be where we are while heading to where we want to be.