Sustaining Change in Your Life

It’s super hard to get motivated to change. Most of us have an area of life that we would like to change; to be different; to be better. We have lists of things that we should be doing, ways in which we ought to be growing and changing. But it’s tough. We know who we are and we may have an idea of who we want to be, but making the necessary changes to achieve that change is one of the hardest things in the world. Whenever we set upon a new path towards growth there primary obstacle to achieving that growth is not the outside world pressing against you. The primary obstacle is you. We haven’t fully owned the change.

External motivation only carries you so far. Real change must be internalized if it’s going to last.

What I mean is this: say you struggle with something in your life that could stand some change and growth. You may be married and your spouse is putting pressure on you to change. Your spouse is external motivation. You may change for your spouse (either because you want to please or because you want to end the nagging). If you have not internalized that the change is YOUR decision then the change will never be permanent. Eventually the old habits and patterns of behavior will resurface.

If you want to see lasting change then you have to OWN it! Why are you changing? What is it in you that desires this growth? What and why do you want to be different? It’s hard enough to change with the proper motivation. Without the internal motivation it’s NEVER gonna happen.

Our six year old is a sweet and loving girl (most of the time!). Every once in a while she’ll have huge meltdown, not want to obey mom and dad, and be a real pill. Being the loving kid she is she always comes to make amends later on. She has said, “I’m sorry, Daddy. I will always listen and obey from now on because I love you. You’re my best daddy (she only has one…).”

She’s totally sincere. She really does love me. But I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there will come another instance where she doesn’t want to do what I am telling her to do…and here we go again. She hasn’t internalized change. Cleaning her room is still something that mom and dad are putting on her – she hasn’t internalized and owned the concept.

Adults are like that, too. There may be areas where we really-maybe-kinda-sorta-wouldbenice if we were different; if we could grow; if we could change. But we usually stay in our same ol’ ruts and habits. At least this is nothing new to the human condition. The Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Roman church:

I don’t do the good things I want to do. I keep on doing the evil things I don’t want to do. I do what I don’t want to do. But I am not really the one who is doing it. It is sin living in me. Here is the law I find working in me. When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.

Yes! That’s us! As kids and as adults that perfectly characterizes our attitude towards change. Even when we KNOW we should do something, should grow in some way, something within us keeps dragging us back. We fail to own the process and let go of the old us. It’s so nice to hold on to the old us. Old us is comfortable. Old us is familiar. I’m a big fan of The Simpsons cartoon. Homer, the family’s dad, is your all-American couch potato. So much so that he even has a special groove in his couch cushion that fits his buttocks. In one episode someone messes up his groove and he has to go through the process of re-establishing his groove. We like what we like and we are the way we are. People better not mess up my groove.

Change usually happens only when it hurts more to stay the same than it hurts to change.

When it finally hurts too much to stay the same then we’ll go ahead and change. But it doesn’t have to be that way. God has cleared the path for change-for letting go of the old us and embracing something remade and reborn!

But how? How can we see real and lasting change? Here are some tips that have worked for me:

  1. Identify what it is that YOU (not someone else) really want to change. If you don’t own it it’s probably not gonna happen.
  2. Identify WHY you want to make the change. What benefit or end result will you achieve?
  3. Find someone who you trust who can hold you accountable to maintaining the change.
  4. Through the whole process pray continually. Yep – ask for divine help in morphing into the new and changed you. In the theological world we might call this sanctification: the process of becoming more and more like Jesus.

There will be good days. There will be bad days. You will have peaks and you will have valleys. The path to growth is not a straight-lined graph. It’s a curvy son-of-a-gun. But if you keep on the path you will eventually find that the valleys of your tomorrows are actually higher than the peaks of your yesterdays. Keep pressing on and you will see it happen.

So…what about you? What do you want to change and improve in your life?

Don’t You Wish You Could Be a Better You?


My son is a pretty happy-go-lucky kid. He’s full of life and joy and is an all-around awesome three year old. Until it comes time for bath and he’s rather do something else. Then everything changes. Even in his sullenness he’s hilarious. I love how every trip to the bathtub becomes a scene from Dead Man Walking. He acts as though he’s walking to the end of all things instead of just walking to the bathroom.

One day I hope he will understand that making him take a bath was for his own good. Washing up, removing dirt and germs, and personal hygiene are important parts of general health maintenance. But it doesn’t feel that way to him. To him, we’re being mean parents for forcing him to get in the water and use…shudder…soap.

Truth be told we never really grow out of that attitude. There are areas in our life that God wants to clean up. It’s not that he’s a mean God who acts capriciously to amuse himself as we hang our heads and drag our feet. He has our best interest at heart and desires that we stay healthy and germ free (spiritually speaking). This is the kind of thing the writer is talking about in the biblical book of Hebrews:

Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.  And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” 

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?  If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.  Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Our natural human tendency is to get dirty. Just like my son likes to play outside and get incredibly sweaty, dirty, and a filthy mess, we do that with our lives. The choices we make, the habits and addictions we become entangled in, and indulging in our own selfish desires makes us dirty and messy people.

God’s intention to give us a bath is for our benefit. And, even though we may not care for bath time, it’s because he cares about us that he teaches us discipline and hygiene and we will see the benefit of it later on.

One last example and then I’ll be off my soapbox. When I was a kid I took piano lessons. I love music and my parents found a great piano teacher who helped me find my own style and voice. But I didn’t like to practice. And I grew to the point where I felt that I was “done” with the lessons. I didn’t want to endure the discipline of it all. Now, as an adult, I really wish that my parents had forced me to endure the discipline more. I wish I were a much better pianist than I am. Had I endured it back then I could reap the produce now.

Don’t buck when God tries to discipline you. He’s not trying to give you restrictive regulations because he’s mean. He’s trying to show you a better way of life so that, in the long run, you will be better off and reap the benefits of a spiritually disciplined life.

It’s time to throw off the sinful behavior that’s been holding you back. It’s time to understand his purpose and intent in holy living. He’s making me better; making me stronger; giving me discipline so that I will benefit and be healthy – so that I can become a better me.

%d bloggers like this: