Thursday, February 16, 2017

How Can I Change?

Each morning my opening prayer is one to St. Paul (see the sidebar).  I admire St. Paul for all he did, and pray I can do some small measure of his great work.  Paul worked very hard to follow the Lord, but in one way he had it much easier than the rest of us:  when it came time for him to change, God threw him from his horse and blinded him ---- he HAD to notice that something was up, and that his life was about to change, whether he wanted it to or not.  I’ve meditated on change in a recent blog posting, but it was on unsought change, the gradual changes that happen in all our lives --- illness, old age, and even changes in relationships.  But Paul was forced to change suddenly.  What if we too made a sudden decision to change, for whatever reason, and we decided to change our life’s course, and in particular to change our relationship with Jesus?
I suppose some of us do feel a subtle nagging desire for a closer relationship with Jesus, but we are too lazy to do anything about it --- or, to be polite, perhaps we don’t know what to do about it.  How can I change?  Some of us might think about that question for a second or two and not give it too much thought.  So the two-second answer to that question is:  Start out in a different direction .  Paul’s change was the exception to the rule; since most change is gradual.  You want to get closer to Jesus, change your direction so you start walking towards Him --- and then be honest in admitting how far apart you are.  This might be a long journey before you get close enough to where you can even think you might begin a conversation with Him.  But a long journey starts with one step, and takes perseverance.
Jesus said He came to call sinners; His words and actions were for them.  And so He taught us how to live, while on the long journey to Him.  I always like to consider the Parable of the Sower when I think about my journey.  I’d like to believe I am sowing His word, through my words and actions, as Paul did.  I’d like to think I am making a difference --- as He would wish me to --- in the lives of those whose paths cross mine.  Perhaps some of my seeds fall on good soil, and produce much fruit, I think.  But I guess I don’t think too much about MY soil.  How prepared am I to take in His words and graces, whether tossed in my heart by Him, or someone He sends into my life?  And how far away am I from Him?
The question is:  When I finally get around to deciding that I want to change my life, to get closer to Him, what if I discover I am the “rocky ground” that the Sower is hitting with his seeds, and so that can’t take root, they don’t resonate with me?  How do I dig out those rocks, the hardness of my heart, and replace it with fertile soil so His life can grow in me, so I can understand His words and actions?  Now we’re getting down to the basics of the question.  Just turning to a different radio station in the car won’t change the music if you have on some headphones playing tunes from your I-phone.  Real change isn’t a superficial thing done to please your friends or parents or God.  Even they can recognize superficial change.  Real change is not just starting in a new way; it’s also stopping in an old way.  It’s not just taking off the headphones, it’s throwing them away.   That’s commitment to change, trying to hear new music.  And, like trying to turn rocky ground into a flourishing garden, it takes hard work.
How can I change?  Where do I begin?  The very first step you must take is the hardest:  it’s to drop the “I” word.  Despite what our culture whispers in your ear, teaches in the classroom, reports in the news, and even riots in the streets to proclaim, you are not free to live your life any way you choose --- because you are not alone.  “You don’t live in a world all your own.  Your brothers are here too” --  (Albert Schweitzer).
If you’ve reached the point where “I think” I want to change, you need to be honest with yourself on why you want to change.  You need to be humble enough to admit that in some way you’ve recognized that you are drowning.  And when drowning you don’t say “I think I’ll change my direction;” you say:  “Help!!”
If you want to change, talk to a friend, a minister or priest, or someone who seems to be on the path you want to take, and ask for their help:  “How can I get there?  Will you help me?  Can I walk with you?”  And you will be surprised how ready they are to help you toss those big rocks from your someday beautiful-to-be garden.
Change begins with one step.
St Paul, please pray for us.
For to those who love God,
Who are called in His plan,
Everything works out for good.
Who is able to condemn?
Only Christ who died for us;
Christ who rose for us,
Christ who prays for us.

-- Hymn by Enrico Garzilli, 1970

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