Reformationis: transformation; reformation;
(Source: William Whitaker’s Words)
What creates lasting change?
You’d think I’d know that. Since being changed literally from the inside out over the last 21 months, I should think I’d have a good handle on lasting change. After all, the redecorating of my innards wasn’t done with Velcro – there’s no going back, baby.
But that doesn’t keep me from trying.
Old habits creep in when I’m not mindful. An attachment to food that I thought was long dead will insidiously rear its ugly head, and I’m mindlessly snacking without realizing it.
Although my new frame and form are capable of doing an astonishing (to me) amount of things in a single day, I can easily find myself slipping into veg mode at the drop of a knitting loom. Or numbing out in front of a movie. Or letting hours pass while surfing the web. Or doing anything but moving forward on the many, many things that are worth my interest and attention. Mindlessness.
I’m finding that the same vigilance I’ve had to use to even start to make habits of my new way of living continues to be required to make my new life stick.
Excuse me for a moment – need to take my mid-morning calcium, vitamins, and such…
Like I said, vigilance. (And yes, I really did pause right then, take some pills, and am chewing away on the first of two calcium chews for this time around.)
Transformation doesn’t always equal change.
Imagine someone who loses a leg to some sad occurrence. They are truly transformed, permanently and irrevocably, but are they changed? Perhaps, since the reality is that they will have to learn to accommodate what is now their reality. They will have to adjust, to relearn, but the change is forced upon them. How deep it goes, and what results from it is up to them.
How my body processes food is permanently changed and, if I don’t live that way, it can result in some mild discomfort all the way to serious malnutrition and a St. Mary’s vacation. Not a great way to “make the Yuletide gay.” But how deep the change goes is up to me. I can follow the new requirements, I can “mostly” follow them, or I can go ape-crazy sometimes and totally blow them off.
That last one not only results in major discomfort, but large protests from the other members of my household. Yes, even Ezzie the Wonder Dog looks at me as if to say, “Dude, I’m a DOG, and that’s still a bit much for me to handle.” Don’t believe me? Spend 24 hours with me after I drink a 20 oz soda – especially a Diet Coke. You’ll be cryin’ for yo mama in eight.
And how do I know these things? Because I HAVE gone ape-crazy, and I have danced around the edges of obedience, and I have had days where I didn’t take care of the basics. After everything I’ve learned and everything I’ve been through, I’ll still do the dumb and shrug off the new while returning to that which is bad for me.
Sometimes, transformation doesn’t go deep enough into change. Sometimes, transformation remains external, and change never penetrates below the surface.
With all the trappings of Christmas surrounding us, focusing on Advent and the reason we celebrate seems a no-brainer. We see it all around us, our hearts are moved by the story once again, and we find ourselves turning toward the One who was always there, all the time, waiting. Transformation – our vision realigned; our hearts refocused; our resolve renewed.
Then the other shoe drops in January, and we learn that transformation does not equal change. Are you inclined toward New Year resolutions? Things that you will accomplish/change/address in the year to come? And how many of those goals/dreams/hopes/resolutions have gotten laid by the wayside, victims of change that hit the surface and bounced off?
(Cal’s honest admission: I’ve got a long, l-o-n-g list of ’em, and enough regrets to repaint the White House a lovely shade of grey.)
Something worth noting: We KNOW it’s coming. Every year, we know that the joy of the holidays is followed by the deep plummet into the valley of the shadow of the new year. Like the light on an oncoming locomotive, we see it coming down the track, and turn into Bambi in the headlight – frozen stiff. The holidays fly through, leaving light and joy and fuzzy stuff and some tinsel in their wake. (Because no matter how carefully you clean, there’s ALWAYS some rogue tinsel left. Always. Oh, and fruitcake. That always gets left behind too.)
(“But deadly for 10,000 years is carbon-14.” – Sting, We Work The Black Seam Together)
(“And fruitcake. Seriously.” – Cal)
(Cal’s honest admission: As much as I use the recurring fruitcake gag, I do like the stuff. And even in my altered state, I usually find a way to get some fruitcake – usually too much, which results in the aforementioned dire consequences.)
What the heck was I talking about?… Oh yeah – Bambi in the headlights eating fruitcake. Not really – he’d never touch the stuff.
We know that the new year approaches, and that we’ll always try and buckle down to make this the year that the change sticks, the resolve remains firm, the dreams are realized, and the fruitcake disposed of. (That’s enough of the recurring gag for this installment…) But change, real lasting change only comes from habits, real lasting habits carefully learned and constantly renewed.
So now is the time to be working toward habits that lead to change in the new year, which brings us to the whole “Advent is a season of preparation” thing. What if the point isn’t preparing for the arrival of the King, but preparing to walk with Him every day in this and every year? To place Him in His proper place, at the head of all things, and to live life this and every year acknowledging His sovereign Lordship? What if we turn the daily Advent calendar into daily time hearing His word? What if Advent family devotions become daily family devotions? What if the reminders of the tree and the nativity scene turn into daily reminders that our lives are well-spent when they begin and end each day with Him?
What if the best, most worthy resolution we can make is a daily walk with God? So simple and wonderful! From that, all sorts of amazing things can follow because He can and will lead us there.
(Cal’s honest, fruitcake-free admission: My habit of listening to the Daily Audio Bible, which is a podcast that I highly recommend, is not perfect. I sometimes get a week or two behind. And what results is not guilt from failing at my resolve, but rather a sadness, a missing piece from not having a daily reminder that God walks with me, each day. He is always there and always will be but if I am not careful, I’ll walk away and wander. I’ll turn away, even though He’s right there, and there will be a hole left behind. I am made less when I fail to turn to Him daily, hourly, minute-by-minute.)
Behaviors lead to habits. Habits can lead to change. And change can lead to lasting, deep transformation. We can be reformed, reborn, renewed, but only in daily behavior, daily habit, daily resolve to walk with Him and follow hard after Him.
And so, we prepare. We celebrate. We wait for the coming King. And personally, I want to use this time to remember where I walk. To refocus my vision. To follow the Christ. I follow… failingly, imperfectly, falteringly, hesitantly… but I follow.
Reformationis: transformation; reformation
“Out of my sorrow, bondage and night, Jesus I come, Jesus I come…”
– William T. Sleeper