Beginning Prayer: Show me your way, teach me your path, guide me in your truth.
Passage for today: Romans 7
I don’t know how much you know about butterflies. I know little, except that I think they’re lovely, and whenever I see one, a little gasp of excitement comes out of me--like in seeing them I have somehow suddenly connected to something much bigger than me. (Oh, and also recently learned that there is a difference between the male and female butterfly, since the one we chose for the look of our women’s conference and study is actually a male, so that’s hilarious.) But, as I’ve been reading a little more recently about their incredible metamorphosis, it seems fitting that we’d take a closer look at how God has designed us for change by looking at this little insect that is known for the way it changes--this hairy, chubby little bug scooting across the dirt who turns into a beautiful winged butterfly with freedom to soar. It is a beautiful reminder for each of us that change is possible.
I am not sure how you feel about change. It seems like most people either love it or hate it. I’m usually in the love it category (I mean, as long as I’m in complete control of the change that is happening.) But I like new: new seasons, new opportunities, new rhythms, new challenges, new paint colors, new throw pillows (I actually may have a throw pillow addiction, is that a thing?), new friends, new music; I just like change.
Or maybe I should say I like new because, to be honest, once the change isn’t new anymore, then I don’t like it as much. I mean, I am SO dedicated at every healthy eating plan I have ever tried--for the first 48 hours. Day three, I’m like, “Wait, what? I’m NOT supposed to eat Cheetos puffs?” So maybe I like change, I’m just not very good at the staying changed part. The truth is, change is hard; if it were easy, we’d all do it and then we wouldn’t have to change!
But I’m encouraged by our man Paul today and his honesty in this chapter. I mean we’ve talked about he’s probably like the tallest of all spiritual giants; I mean his resume is pretty good with that whole, “writing the second half of the Bible” thing. But here he is, being so honest and real as he wrestles with change. Not sure what version you read this morning, but watch his wrestling in the message translation:
Romans 7:17-24, “I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight...I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope.”
Paul...this dude who is like the OG pastor, the starter of what we know as the church today, like a literal SAINT, is like, “I like change….I’m just not very good at it!!” He’s saying, “I like change...I’m actually changing all the time--going back and forth from what I want to do to what I don’t...from doing good to getting tripped up...from being hopeful to hopeless...from delighting in God to not so much delighting.” He’s saying he likes change, he wants to change, he’s just not very good at it! He is saying change is hard; if it were easy, we’d do it and then we wouldn’t have to change!
We learned last week that we are supposed to be living free from sin--that we’re not slaves to it anymore. And, we’re also free from the law--we’re not bound to perfection and performance anymore. But even after that revelation, Paul is saying that we still might find ourselves in a place where we are just STUCK. So, what we’re going to do this week is wrestle with the same question as Paul, and ask ourselves, “Why are we stuck?”
When a caterpillar first starts the process of metamorphosis, I bet it feels stuck. Did you know that it makes new skin under the old skin and when the new skin is made, that is what pushes it to shed the old skin? It’s actually the process of developing something new that pushes out the old, but while all that work is happening underneath, the caterpillar really doesn’t look much different from the outside. I mean, anybody looking at it, including the caterpillar if he looked in the mirror, wouldn’t really even be able to see much change at all, even though there is a lot going on underneath the surface!
And I think that’s how it is with us too. So much of permanent change, of character development, of learning how to become and morph and grow is a lot of hard work on the inside. It’s a lot of unseen hard work, and it takes time. But today, I want to remind you: you have permission to TRY.
They are redoing the Target by my house. Do you hear what I’m saying to you? THEY ARE REDOING THE TARGET BY MY HOUSE. This change has not been a welcome one. It is unsettling and uncomfortable and SO annoying. I don’t know where ANYTHING is. They have moved EVERYTHING. I used to know where to find a polka dot push pin, and now I can’t even find the dog food. It’s not funny. It’s cruel.
But, I think that’s what trying feels like sometimes. It’s so uncomfortable. So unfamiliar. So impractical. Our unhealthy habits are familiar, are practice, are routine. Exchanging them for healthy ones takes effort, intention and frankly can be kind of annoying--and sometimes it takes a long time to see any progress. But today, I just want to say... JUST TRY. Here’s what I’m learning. Change is hard, but not changing is harder. (This does NOT apply to Target!!)
So, when that thing that has kept you down for so long comes to taunt you again today, try something new. Try a meeting. Try calling a friend. Try going for a walk. Try asking God to take you through a feeling instead of around it. Try reaching out to a counselor. Try trusting that God always gives you what you need when you’re tempted...can you find the out he’s giving you and take it? Try it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve avoided the process of change because I assumed it wouldn’t work before I even tried. Today, I want you to take that permission back. You are not stuck. Even five steps forward and four steps back is progress. Change is possible, but we have to be willing to give hope a try.
God, you are faithful. You are smart. And you know me, inside and out. You know the places I’m stuck and the things I hate about my life. Will you help me today? Help me to see your hand. Help me to feel your power. Help me to take the path that you’ve cleared to find my way out. Help me have patience in the process of change today, knowing that I may not even be able to see yet what all this hard work is for. Give me courage today to try.
Take some time today to write down something small you’d like to change about your life. I’m talking about something kind of simple...like “I want to change the way I always leave the bathroom a mess in the morning or I want to do something more productive during soccer practice besides just sit in my car or I want to change the way I get caught in the wormhole of social media.”
Now, empower yourself to make a small change about it, at least one time, to engage with how this process works. Maybe you buy a cute new bin to put all your bathroom supplies in, maybe you set a walking date with a friend during soccer practice, or maybe you put a setting on your phone that automatically shuts off the app that sends you into the abyss (seriously, iPhones now have a Settings feature called Screen Time that can really help with this! Look it up!)
And yes, it might take some intention, effort and work. I know that’s not always our favorite thing...it’s kind of like that meme: “I hate it when I go to the kitchen looking for food and all I find are ingredients!” But today, I want you to look for the ingredients you need to make a change.
Now, once you know what you want to change, know what ingredients you’ll need to make it, ask yourself, who am I going to ask to hold me accountable to this change, then text or call them and tell them your plan and what time and day they can check back in with you about it.
I know, it’s terrifying!! ;) But don’t let the fear stop you from trying. Make it fun and prove to yourself that with a little intention and accountability, you can make positive changes, and maybe that will even give you more courage when it’s time for the bigger ones.
(See if you can commit to memory, or commit to remember, this verse this week.)
“We have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit.” (Romans 7:6, NLT)