There are principles taught throughout scripture where opposite things get "cloned" together as instruction: Leave and cleave, stop and begin again, turn away and return. In these moments of instruction we find ourselves being challenged to stop being or doing something one way and then be or do something the totally opposite way. Why? In each case, there is something different we are called into. The way we have been living is to be left behind and we are to embrace a new way of living. It may not seem obvious at first, but when we receive this instruction and actually take the necessary steps to follow it, our lives begin to change. When we leave one thing and move into another we are experiencing a new perspective in life. For example, when we move from one place of residence to a new one, we leave behind a whole lot of memories in the old place, but we are beginning to make new ones in the one we will take up residence in. We leave, stop, and turn away from the old house. Then we cleave, begin again, and return to the "normalcy" of living again in our new house. If you have ever returned to an old neighborhood, you might be surprised to realize all the changes which have gone on without you there - things you neither knew about, nor did you participate in. Life goes on, but it goes on without you. In life, we leave lots of things behind, but some of what we leave behind is best left in the past, if you know what I mean.
You were taught to leave your old self. This means that you must stop living the evil way you lived before. That old self gets worse and worse, because people are fooled by the evil they want to do. You must be made new in your hearts and in your thinking. Be that new person who was made to be like God, truly good and pleasing to him. (Ephesians 4:22-24 ERV)
To leave implies we stop doing something or going somewhere. In my mind, there are a lot things I have stopped doing, but you would never know it - simply because these were battles I fought in my mind. Some of them were in the choice of words I used when angry or frustrated. Other things I stopped dealt with how I responded to certain stimuli - actually changing my response to something a little less self-centered. Why are these things important to share? If we want to be somewhere we are not presently, we have to take the steps to get to where it is we want to be. We have to stop being and become. It is a process of transition - movement from one place to another. It doesn't matter whether it is physical movement, or that which takes place within our minds and hearts in the changing of the way we think to the way we respond to certain stimuli. We leave and cleave, stop and start again, repent and return.
We are told to leave behind our old self - our old way of making choices (independent of God), our old way of responding to challenges (handling them ourselves or curling up into a fetal position paralyzed to all movement), and our old way of relating to one another (thinking of self first, others last). The message is clear - either leave the old and take up with the new, or face the reality that you will get worse and worse (deeper and deeper into) because of the choices you are making. Every compromise we make today becomes the means by which new ideas will be entertained tomorrow (ideas we never thought we'd ever think). There is a power behind compromise which we sometimes neglect to see until it has us fully engulfed in some compromise so deep we see no way out.
We were made to be like God. In being born with a sin nature, we need to have this nature exchanged in order to become the new man or woman he has created us to be. We are made new in our hearts when we leave and cleave - laying down the old way of "doing business" in our lives, and taking up the new way of doing business - fully reliant upon grace, his goodness, and his direction. This seems foreign to us at first, because we are not used to living dependent upon another, seeing it as a form of weakness at times. We worked so hard to get to a place of independence in life and now we are being asked to become dependent upon God. What a struggle this is for us! We had developed one way of thinking, only to find it was flawed and just not accomplishing what we hoped it would. Now we must rely upon a new way of thinking - one which begins with the question, "What would you like me to do here, Lord?", instead of one which begins with, "What would make me happy here?"
We pursue all manner of thought and action we "hope" will make us "happy". In fact about a week ago, I heard someone talk about needing to do things which make US happy and stop worrying so much about the other person. It caught my attention, even though that individual was not speaking with me, simply because the idea of pleasing self is so prevalent in society's instructions today. We hear it more than we might imagine - with media inundating us with the message in subtle ways. Please self - you cannot eat just one Lay's potato chip. Please self - VROOM, VROOM. Please self - your dream vacation awaits you. In everyday life, we are instructed to find what pleases us and pursue it. God never instructs us to focus on self, but to serve others. Herein is our biggest challenge - leaving "us" behind and taking up the instruction to "live for another". Yet, if we want to really be "happy" (content, fulfilled, and purposeful) in our pursuit of life, we will embrace the instruction to lay down our lives to live for another. Leave and cleave. Just sayin!