I know what change looks like. I have been fairly good at producing it. Something I know about personal change is that there is often a visceral prompt about it that spurs action and precedes any logistics.
Every New Year people make their rounds up Resolution Hill. We’ve all done it. There’s nothing wrong with attempting to enhance at the start of a year because it really can be the beginning of something life-changing. I marched off that hill years ago, however, and never looked back. I got tired of making promises I was not going to keep because I was not ready to keep them.
Parable of the Pounds
I watch people. I listen to them. And I’ve learn to tell if they’ll really change the way they hope. In business, laying out a plan or strategy for change is standard practice. An organization that fails to draft important next steps could ruin itself for a small oversight. Planning is helpful for personal change as well, although it may not require the extensive planning a business might. Plans are good, but remember I mentioned a visceral element as the impetus to much change? Let me help you understand what I mean by that. I’ll use weight loss as an example and two fictionalized people–Stacy and Brenda.
Stacy is excited about losing weight. January 1 is closing in and she’s already purchased a gym membership, athletic wear, and an array of diet products and appliances. She’s even convinced a neighbor to take the plunge with her. On New Year’s Day, she’ll be the first one knocking down the gym door because the time for change has come.
Brenda, however, has been frustrated and concerned about her weight. For months now she’s been altering the way she eats little-by-little and getting to the track for extended walks. She finally stopped by the gym today and committed, purchasing a membership so she could have access to the weight machines. Her chagrin has morphed into enthusiasm about her slow but steady progress.
Now, who goes the distance–Stacy or Brenda? If you said Stacy, then you’d better rethink it.
Here’s my point: There is little run-up to genuine personal change. Deliberation will always kill the tough thing to do. The people that change really are the ones who are ‘tired of being sick and tired’, and they make moves. Brenda couldn’t have cared less about new clothes and even the gym membership at first. The time for change for her could wait no longer, not for a date, not for ideal accessories. It was now or never.
Tired, Weak, and Worn
Jesus seems to tap into this same urgency in Matthew 11:28. He beckons, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens…I will give you rest” (NLT). Not only is he drawing religious contrast between following the Law of Moses and himself, but he is also prodding their spiritual discomfort with sin and limited grace.
“Aren’t you tired of this rigmarole?” he asks. “It’s time for better.” It’s the same tone we hear in Lady Liberty:
Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
Jesus shows us already in Matthew 11 the ones who change. He says, “And from the time John the Baptist began preaching until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing, and violent people are attacking it” (v. 12). He speaks of those in the press. Those who just won’t do without. Those who are mad about it. They are those who will lay hold on the change they seek.