Thursday, January 30, 2014

Agents of change

After the new year rolled over, I was feeling pretty sure that I was the manager of change in my life. Every January, it's as if I have a clipboard displaying a list of all means of self-improvement, and I put checkmarks by the ones to which I will agree. Eat fewer cookies? Check. Read my Bible more? Definitely. Drink green smoothies? Pass. Some things, sure, I'll change them. Some things I pass up. But regardless, I am doing it. January tricks me into thinking I am the arbiter of who I am becoming.

But you know that I don't really believe that, if you've been around here a while. In my head, I know God can and will assign agents of change in my life that can be surprising, annoying, inconvenient, and even painful.

I think of things like unplanned pregnancies, "spirited" children who threaten to break us, sudden loss, relationship crises, major moves to places like Montana, and I am jolted back to understanding that God's the boss of change. Of heart-shaping. Of making the seas of life rock so that our faith anchor is grounded more firmly than ever. My brain knows this. But so easily, I get preoccupied with my own plans.

Well, remember how in my last post, I said I wanted to begin waking up early to read my Bible daily? I was going to manage this bit of change by setting my phone alarm 30 minutes earlier. I was to start Monday morning of last week.

Well, two days earlier, we got a new puppy. Sometimes I call her Pup-a-lup, but her name is Fielder. I was not connecting any dots between wanting to read my Bible more and getting a puppy. Why would I? In fact, it was not until Monday morning at 5 a.m., when Fielder was crying and I was up 90 minutes before my phone alarm was to go off, that I realized God had His own agent of change for me. And it was a furry one; far more effective and non-negotiable than a phone alarm. Today she woke up at 4:40 a.m. God and I may want the same thing for me; but we may not go about changing me in the same way.

My first instinct is to resist and complain and regret that I signed up for ANY bit of change, be it the Bible reading or the dog acquisition. Isn't that so human? To fight any and all change, to try to remove oneself from new responsibility and unwanted imposition?

But as silly and small a thing as a puppy is, what if God chose that puppy for this place in time for my heart (and those in my home) to create something new there? Something necessary and long-awaited. Patience? Self-discipline? Gentleness? Flexibility? Does it even matter? Sometimes just the fact that we are to practice flexing and serving when and where God gives opportunity is enough of a lesson. It is not even about waking up early or taking her out 50 times a day.

I think the bottom line, the rich fruit pressing its way through any agent of change, is submission.

God wants to be quite sure that no matter what, we're following Him. We're catching what He throws, even if it looks like something we do not want to hold.

It is not for the faint of heart; if I say "Yes, Lord, I'll fully submit to you," we both know that means we are submitting to every agent of change that could come our way. My worst fears flip through my mind and I question whether I really want to sign up for true discipleship. That's what it is, you know. A disciple of Christ is willing to go wherever Jesus leads. A disciple relinquishes all rights to manage change in her life and trusts God to change her when and how He chooses.

Most of all, His rate of change for our hearts is perfect and loving. On the spectrum of change, most people agree that zero change is bad. We are not supposed to stagnate, to stay so comfortable that nothing ever changes. And if someone does desire that way of life, most of us agree that those people are unhealthy and probably live fear-based lives. On the other end of the spectrum, people who cannot seem to escape the tide of constant change can also be unhealthy. Not being able to keep a job, keep kids in the same school for more than a few months at a time, or maintain relationships could be evidence of a destructive lack of stability.

So there is a precious middle ground, a zone of ultimate growth where the rate of change in our lives is neither too slow nor too fast. I don't know where that is for myself. God is the only one who knows what I can handle. When he pushes me up out of my comfort zone, that means I'm ready to move. I may not want to (I probably don't), but I'm equipped and capable through the power of the Holy Spirit, probably far more than I realize. And when the Lord slows me down, bringing me into a restful season, He knows I need that too. He is perhaps refueling me for what He sees coming next. Only God can pace the growth in my heart so that I am neither stagnating nor overwhelmed.

The puppy is a minor example of an agent of change. She really just reminded me that I love to be in charge of what changes me. And often, I am not. Many friends of mine are facing formidable agents of change that have brought much pain and confusion into their lives. I've been there too, and I'm sure I will be again someday. If you're in such a season now, or if you're realizing some discomfort may very well be a divine appointment for changing your heart, submission is the only path through it. I won't say "out of it," because some challenges are long term. But embracing God's sovereignty and trusting His goodness every day or every hour or every minute is the greatest heart-salve.

He only changes us because He loves us so much. In His perfect wisdom, He knows when we're ready to grow up, to be pruned, and to die to our old ways. Let's not just allow God to change us, but let's invite Him to.

As long as it's after 5 a.m.

Just kidding.

Not really.  



  1. So true, friend. I'm reminded of Proverbs 20:24. "A man's steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand his own way?" I all too often try to work it all out myself, but (thankfully) he directs my steps. The learning goes straight to my heart that way instead of just getting stuck in my head.

    I love your words, Leslie. :)

  2. Love this Leslie! This is a verse the Lord just gave me to download in my heart and it goes along with your blog today...Psalm 37:23-24 The Lord directs my steps, He delights in every detail of my life. Though I stumble, I will not fall, for the Lord holds me by the hand. :) Bless you!

  3. One thing will never change...God gave you the ability, or should I say the gift, to Speak to others and move them like no one else. Thank you for sharing! I looked up a prayer I once found and want to share..."Lord, allow me to rejoice in your perfect timing. ..especially when I don't understand it." Have a great day!

  4. "I love to be in charge of what changes me." Oh my. So true! I realized after reading this that I also want to be in charge of changing my children...but God is in charge, not me. Thank you for this post.