The following is a part of our weekly devotional series, which is a companion to the 2013 Foursquare Life Journal. This week’s Bible reading comes from Job 37-42; Ps. 122 and 149; 1 Cor. 9-16; and 2 Cor. 1-10.
According to one study, when approached with the topic of change, the majority of Americans react negatively. Similar to a hedgehog, we curl up into a ball, sticking out our prickles until the perceived danger has passed. Regardless of whether proposed change is healthy, we tend to view it negatively. We are all wired differently, and we naturally either gravitate toward stability or toward new and possibly threatening challenges.
It’s important to pause here and to make clear that neither one of these positions is better than the other. If pressed on the question, we would all acknowledge the basic human need for stability as well as the virtue of challenging the status quo.
Paul writes, in 1 Cor. 10:12, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (NKJV). This portion of the letter is a challenge to the church to learn from Israel’s mistakes and avoid falling into the same types of pitfalls that their ancestors did.
The challenge to me is clear, that consistent honesty and self-evaluation before our God is a requirement for us. And this openness will inevitably lead us into change. How then do we overcome our fear? What has been helpful for me recently is to understand what change requires and what prevents it from happening.
Change requires vulnerability. Professor Brené Brown of the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work has done some excellent work on this topic. She argues that, in order for real change to occur in us, we have to be willing to open up. We have to let others in. We have to give them permission to look at us squarely and speak truth to us. This can be a problem. Why?
Vulnerability provokes our shame. Most of us have lived under, battled, or are currently grappling with shame. Whereas guilt says, “I have sinned, I made a mistake,” shame says, “I have sinned, I am a mistake.” Once we agree to change, we realize that we have put ourselves in a vulnerable position. Wham! Up pops our shame. Shame makes us think, “If you really knew this about me, you wouldn’t want to be with me anymore.”
Therein lies the problem with change. Our internal struggle goes something like this: Step 1: “Help me, Lord, to see what I don’t see.” Step 2: “Yes, Lord, I see that too.” Step 3: “Change is needed! Let’s do this!” Step 4: “I guess I need to be vulnerable with someone about this.” Step 5: “They can never know that about me!” Step 6: Nothing changes.
Is it possible to break this cycle and to have healthy change in our lives? Is it possible to learn from Israel’s (and our own) mistakes and grow into all that God has called us to be? I will answer a hearty yes! But there is a catch. It will require vulnerability and a willingness to confront the areas of our hearts that bring us shame. This is not easy, and at times it requires help from some wise, trustworthy friends. But, it can be done.
On my desk sits a sticky note with the words “do it afraid” scribbled on it. I need it there, because I am afraid of change. Can I encourage you to press in? Identify the areas where you need change, choose to be vulnerable and let God crush your shame! You will be shocked at the leader-in-you waiting on the other side.
By: Russell Schlecht, senior pastor of Living Word Fellowship (Oak Harbor II Foursquare Church) in Oak Harbor, Wash.
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