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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Radical Life Change

Radical - of or going to the root or origin of something.  If you haven't really thought about what "radical change" is, you might be a little surprised to find out it is change which goes after the "root" or "origin" of something in order to so totally change what has become "traditional".  If a business wants to "re-invent" themselves because they have been losing customers to some other big name chain with a newer look, what do they do?  They go through some "radical change" to make us believe this is the store we want to be shopping at instead of the other guy's.  J.C. Penney did just that - they changed up the lines they carried, took out a whole bunch of their stock, remodeled the interiors of the stores to be more "hip", and then they lost business!  Most of us who shopped at Penney's did so for a reason - the consistency of finding the lines we liked, which fit us well, at a reasonable price range.  In over a year, I haven't been able to find anything there I could really use - and it used to be the one place I could find all my career wear! What happened?  They thought they had to "change" their "core" in order to draw business back into their store.  In reality, their "core" was pretty good, they probably just needed to make some subtle changes to attract the crowd of shoppers they were aiming at drawing in, but without sacrificing the loyalty of those who looked to them for their "core" purchases.  Sometimes I think we do the same thing when God asks us to begin to change in a particular area. We think he wants some big "revamp" of everything, so we set about to go through a major "redo", all the while forgetting about the "core values" he has already worked out in our lives.  

You didn’t think, did you, that just by pointing your finger at others you would distract God from seeing all your misdoings and from coming down on you hard? Or did you think that because he’s such a nice God, he’d let you off the hook? Better think this one through from the beginning. God is kind, but he’s not soft. In kindness he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change.  (Romans 2:3-4 MSG)

When God goes after the "root" of our lives, it isn't always to "pluck it up"!  In fact, sometimes he just needs to "stimulate" it a little in order to get it on track with growth as it should be.  We cannot sacrifice the "core values" - in other words, we don't throw the baby out with the bath water!  Sure, God wants us to be affected deeply, changing where change is needed, and developing a keener awareness of what it is he desires of us, but he doesn't want us to neglect or forget the values he has already worked into our lives.  I think this is a common issue for many of us - we see there is a new focus and we forget about the "old" in order to pay attention to the "new".  What happens to the old?  It gets neglected.  What happens when something is neglected?  It begins to no longer be the "practiced" behavior.

Some roots need a little "plucking".  It is like when Penney's might realize a particular line of clothing or household goods is no longer selling.  They might want to either consider "restyling" those clothes to stay in fashion, or just drop the line totally.  Sometimes, a simple "restyle" is all that is needed - because the "basics" are there - they just need a little attention.  At other times, the styles have moved on and it is time to retire the line - like polyester jumpsuits!  The basic black dress or skirt will never go out of style, but they may "restyle" it with a different hem line, or perhaps a new cut to the neckline in order to keep it "new".  One gets at the root in order to eliminate the line, while the other simply allows the root to be stimulated to produce a new line.  

Lest we think God is interested in "restyling" our lives, let me explain.  God wants radical life change - plain and simple.  As he makes change in our lives, he doesn't go about plucking up that change and then growing another.  He keeps the changes we have made and then "adds" changes by stimulating us at the "root" of our being (the core) in order to bring about even more growth. We have to be aware of which one of these God is doing - plucking up or stimulating the roots.  When we know clearly he is after the removal of something from the "roots up", then we let go of it.  When we see he is just "digging around those roots" a little, we can be assured what he sees is good at the core, we just need a little help to bring the best growth forth.

Paul is presenting this idea of radical life change - core change.  Core change often requires the expertise we don't possess on our own.  We need God taking us by the hand and "leading" us into this change, otherwise our "best" change may just be a flop (kind of like the changes Penney's made to their stores).  The ideas we have for change aren't "bad", they just aren't God's ideal for our lives - we need his "ideal", not just our "best".  It is heartwarming to me to realize God is leading us through this change.  He doesn't expect us to dig around those roots on our own - nor does he expect us to know which ones need to be totally plucked up.  He takes us by the hand.  This suggest a certain degree of intimacy and caring, doesn't it.  He is going to get "deep into" our core and he wants us to know how much he cares about what it is he is doing.

When we take the hand of another, we are usually doing it because we want to express something in that connection, isn't it?  We don't do it with everyone.  If we just walked up to every stranger in the mall and reached out to take their hand, we'd soon see some pretty radical behavior from them, wouldn't we?  They'd pull back, even scream in surprise.  Why?  We don't have relationship with them and we have no right to hold their hands!  Now, if they were drowning in the lake, they might just crave that connection, but not when they are minding their own business window shopping at the mall!  God doesn't just march right up to us and take us by the hand, telling us he is taking us to the place of change.  First he establishes relationship with us, then he begins to connect with us frequently enough to allow us to develop a trust relationship with him.

Taking the hand of one we trust is much easier, isn't it?  We might just crave these times of "hand leading", because the show how much we are really loved.  You see, when God takes us by the hand, it isn't because he is angry with us, it is because he cares so much for us that he doesn't want to see us continue to embrace stuff in our lives which is doing us harm.  His hand-holding is not just casual - it is purposeful.  He leads, we follow.  He squeezes tight, we know he is at work.  He pulls back, we know it is time to stop.  His touch is our means for radical life change.  Just sayin!