By Mark Walz
Changing your life, even with small things, is incredibly difficult. Dr. Theo Tsaousides in his article, “What Makes Change Difficult,” wrote that one reason it is difficult is because one change often involves several changes. For example, try and change your eating and you are most likely going to have to change where you shop for groceries, you will most likely need to adjust your budget, and you will have to think twice about where you go to eat with your friends. Tsaousides also points out that it could our status quo is often too comfortable to allow for our commitments to change take hold. Probably there are many reasons for the difficulty of change, but psychologists tend to agree — change is hard. But what if you really need to change? What do you do then? Is it possible? Where do you start?
A few weeks ago, I realized that I had been in a bit of a spiritual rut. It was not easy to admit this, nor was it clear how to fix it. But I needed some change in my life. Thankfully, I am in a great group of other clergy that meet weekly to share and go over a really great spiritual curriculum. And the lesson that week happened to be very much related to change. It was all about having a ‘rule of life.’ What is that? Rev. Geoff Chapman describes it this way:
“Everyone has rhythms that make up their life. Those rhythms are your ‘Rule of Life,’ the regular habits that frame your life and form your life.”
More or less it is the habits we adopt or fall into. Looking at my life I noticed many adopted habits that were not helping my spiritual life. My rule of life was hindering real spiritual growth. And it makes sense, if you think about it. Rev. Chapman shares that Paul said much the same sort of thing to his disciple, Timothy:
“Spend your time and energy training yourself for spiritual fitness. Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next” (1 Timothy 4:7-8).
My habits and rules of living had resulted in a stagnant spiritual life. My soul lacked exercise. I needed to make a change.
But I have tried this before. I have tried to do things differently and add in new habits — tried and failed. And it did not help that when I began writing the things I wanted to change I got on a roll! I thought I might come up with 4 or 5 things; I stopped after 19. “Ok, maybe that is too much to start with,” I thought. I need to slow down. Well, this is exactly what our lesson encouraged. “Begin and build slowly rather than trying too much at first.” So I picked one thing to focus on. Instead of adopting 19 new habits, I adopted 1.
Ok, it has been a week but I am very encouraged. This one habit is sticking in a different way. It is hard to describe why, but even though it is a non-spiritual habit I am trying to form, it is shaping a bit of my spiritual life as well. A little change is effecting other areas; it feels as though this little change has the potential to be a big change. With the Lord’s help my rule of life looks as though it could change, against all odds. I may not have the ability to change on my own. As I said, I have tried and failed. But by making a small change and connecting it to my spiritual life, I feel like the Holy Spirit has the power to change me in spite of my weakness.
Now the point of this change, you’ll remember, was that I was not satisfied with my spiritual growth (or lack thereof). So right then I am encouraged that this is not by my strength alone, but by His might, “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). If you are like me, and you can’t manage to make all the changes you would like to at once, maybe try one thing. And ask the Lord to multiply your efforts. If you would like to make some big changes in your life then I invite you to a small change; one like this. And I will let you know how mine goes!