Change can be a long process.
My mom told me never to use the word hate, but today I can’t help myself. I hate skylights, at least those in my bedroom.
It’s not because they leak when it rains, which they sometimes do.
It’s not because they make a bedroom a blast furnace in the summer.
It’s because they allow the full moon to shine in my face in the middle of the night.
I need it pitch black when I sleep, preferably so dark that I can’t see my hand in front of my face.
The moon’s light woke me up this morning as it usually does when it shines through the skylight. It arrived a little later than the past nights. My eyes opened when the moon was halfway through the length of the skylight. I dosed off again then woke up as the moon was exiting the window.
Since I was wide awake, I decided to watch the moon disappear. “This shouldn’t take long,” I thought. It was 4:05 am. I watched, but it didn’t disappear. Five minutes later, ten minutes later, fifteen minutes later, twenty minutes later, and finally, after twenty-five minutes, the moon no longer shone on my side of the bed (funny how it never shines on Janice).
The curvature of the glass made the moon’s exit excruciatingly long.
Change is often a painful experience that takes longer than we expect, especially when it involves our heart more than our actions.
It is not hard to change our behavior, at least for a relatively short time. I decided to lose weight last year. I immediately changed my eating habits and started losing weight. Being OCD, I stepped on the scale every morning to watch my progress. I lost 25 pounds, but then I started eating like before and the scale slid eight pounds to the right. Ugh.
We hear the Bible’s call to flee sexual immorality, stop gossiping, and love our neighbor as ourselves. So we make a list, check it twice, of those things we need to do that will better equip us for loving our neighbor, speak well of others, and avoid pornography. And it works…for awhile.
Changing our behavior is good, but it’s not the root problem, nor does it always last. Jesus reminded his disciples that it is out of the heart that sinful behavior flows (Mark 7:21-22). Changing the heart is like waiting for the moon to disappear. It takes times. It takes the work of the Holy Spirit who bathes us in the grace of Christ.
The key to a change of heart is the grace of God, not the demands and threats of rules. Rules might change our behavior, but they don’t change the heart. Experiencing grace in Christ not only changes the heart, it changes everything about us. Most importantly, grace changes our relationship with God. This new relationship with God changes us from the inside out.
In Colossians, Paul writes about a changed heart and how it affects our behavior. He states that we work toward outward change because God has chosen us. He has declared us holy and blameless as his beloved ones (Colossians 3:12-13).
Because God’s grace first works on our hearts, it takes time to change. There are days that we experience the Holy Spirit moving us forward, and days when we feel the old self returning. God never gives up on us.
I’ve been married to Janice for 37 years. I entered our marriage with a nasty, self-centered heart. My motto was, “Why put off to tomorrow what Janice can do today.” I’m not the same person, but it has taken 37 years to work change in my heart, and God isn’t finished. It’s still a process of the Holy Spirit working the change even in moments when I return to the old Doug.
We’re wrapped around the axle of time when it comes to change. We want our hearts to change now. Grace acts like the moon disappearing from my skylight. It takes time, but it will effect change.
Don’t give up. God’s grace is still working on you and in you.
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Copyright Douglas P Brauner