Change happens. “The only constant is change,” they say. “Change is hard” and “nobody likes change” are mantras we hear everyday. And yet, for all its discomfort, change is, like death and taxes, inevitable.
Maybe I should have studied psychology. One of the dominant questions in my mind over the years has been a simple one: “How do people change?” meaning of course, “How do I change?” The question drives lots of book sales, especially in the areas of self-help, psychology, and education. People flop into therapists’ offices every day hunting change. Twelve-step groups, accountability groups, wilderness trekking groups, social activists groups–there are many kinds of relational arrangements aimed at “change.” Growth of any kind both implies and assumes change, and we engender change every day, with every bit of learning we seek.
The core of the question, though, is not one of mere information intake, or the simple slipping by of time. The core of the question is desired change, the change we want to have happen, and the intentional manner by which we go after that change. And of course, the change I am most interested in is not the change of status, be it economic, social, or even relational, but rather, the change of heart.
How does it happen?
Battles are fought over the various methodologies, people divide into camps of various activities. “Do this” and change is assured. “No,” comes the cry from the other side of the room, “do this instead.” Pray these prayers, take these actions, lift these particular moral weights, and all will be well. This holy book rather than that one, this bestseller rather than that one, this guru rather than that one.
Here’s the thing: the heart is changing, even now. Intentional or not, there is movement in all our hearts, if nothing but to take the day to grow one more layer of thin hardness. Or conversely, to take the day to open to God and to love and to grace an inch more. To put it as Dallas Willard does, we are all being spiritually formed whether we like it or not. It is simply a matter of which direction that formation is taking us.
The first question, seems to me is this: who will we trust to teach us? Which assumes that we will not find it on our own, regardless of what the Ramthas and Anthony Robbins of the world say. Yes, Jesus said “The Kingdom of God is within you” but I’m pretty sure he didn’t mean what the self-help folks hear in that phrase. Just what he did mean is a longer conversation, but my point here is simply this: do we trust that the Christ knows the transformation of heart that we long for, and that he knows how it happens? Do we trust that he can teach us? Does he know life or not?
Everyone that comes through the door needs to be transformed…