A blog about the life of the Balentine family: Adam, Amy, Teddy, Simon, Thomas, Peter and Goldie

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

On change

Amy and I were talking the other night as we enjoyed one of the many meals that someone from our church family brought to us. {Side note: thank you to all who have fed us over the last several weeks.  It has been a huge blessing!}  The topic Amy and I discussed was “change.”  Of course, the two of us have been radically changed by Simon.  We know that others are seeing things in a new light and are thinking and acting differently as well.  But how can this change be sustained?  How do we live-out the rest of our days without slipping back into our old, uninspired ways?

A few friends have told me that peoples’ attention spans for death typically last about three weeks.  That is to say, the supporters and comforters tend to move on and hop back into their old routines after a few weeks of giving focused attention to the grievers.  But for the griever there is no “moving on.” No closure.  There is only the turning of a page. 

As we move further and further away from the time that Simon spent on this Earth, how do we maintain the hope that filled our hearts?  How do we now find grace in the mundane, and love in the unremarkable?

Motivation to change comes from deep within, but the help we need to grow and shape this into sustainable transformation must come from something beyond us. Christians should be people of constant transformation.  That is good news - albeit scary and uncomfortable news.  It is good news because we all long for progress.  We want to stockpile wisdom.  We seek to fully equip ourselves physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually for the life ahead.  Transformation doesn't come from simply stating, “I’ve changed!”  As Rick Warren explains, you cant tie oranges to a Eucalyptus tree and claim, “From this point on, this tree will live its life as an orange tree!”  Change is not a facade.  Change is being reborn into someone new.  

The Holy Spirit is our agent of change.  The Holy Spirit is the deliverer of truth.  The Spirit moves within us, forcing us to shed old ideals so we can make room to equip ourselves for new callings. 

How do I know I know that the Spirit changes us and shapes us?  Recently, I decided I would start re-reading Genesis.  Sometimes the Old Testament seems so daunting to me.  Certain parts of it make me feel like I’m just laboring - as if I’m trudging through a muddy field.  I have to constantly un-stick my feet in order to keep dragging along.  As I read these ancient texts I sometimes feel unsure of where exactly I’m going - even if I trust my compass. 

What really led me to read Genesis again was a desire to get inside Abraham’s brain.  I wanted to know what sort of emotions he must have been going through when he was obedient God’s call to sacrifice his son Isaac.  I wanted to relate to Abraham, a man who would give it all when God demanded. As I have continued on through Genesis - past the story of Abraham and now into Joseph - I have new, unexpected lessons being taught to me.  In Joseph’s story, I see a man who was destroyed by his own brothers, but then unexpectedly rose to power in Egypt by God’s grace (see Genesis 37, 40-45) . Joseph seemed to toy with the idea of punishing his brothers who sold him into slavery.  Joseph may have had a voice telling him, “You’re powerful.  You’re rich.  Flaunt your might and rub it in their faces.  Make them envious, and make them feel small.  Make them suffer for their sins against you.  Don’t forgive them unless they fall to their knees and cry out for your mercy!”  But that’s not what Joseph did. 

Joseph succumbed to the deeper longing of his heart to reconnect with his brothers.  He saw that they were aching from their decision to hurt Joseph and cast him out so long ago, and their regret melted him (Gen 42:24).  Like the father of the prodigal, Joseph embraced his brothers and them to drink and feast with him.  The wounds of the past became scars and the pain was a distant memory.  Joseph redeemed his brothers because the mercy he experienced from God had transformed him.  The change he had undergone through his experience of God’s grace came from deep within.  Although he could have had authority to get away with ultimate revenge on his brothers, he chose to extend the same grace that he had been given by God the Father.  He was obedient to God.  And his obedience was vital to story of millions of Christians because he spared the life of his brother, Judah, who would become one of the leaders of the 12 tribes of Israel. From this tribe would arise the King of Kings – the Carpenter Messiah – Jesus Christ.

The Holy Spirit reveals truth in scripture.  This time, when I read the story of Joseph, I saw aspects of the story I had never noticed before.  I was able to connect with Joseph’s emotion.  He loved his brothers enough to forgive them before they asked for forgiveness. 

It’s important to note that steadfastness can be exercised as we experience change.  We can “stay put” and be transformed.  So often I feel a pull toward making a drastic life change when my eyes are opened to new realities.  If a major life event happens – like the birth of a child, death of a loved, financial hardship; a promotion opportunity is missed, or a difficult season of marriage occurs – we might feel a tendency to take flight.  The Spirit can teach you in your steadfastness as well.  Perhaps the change you’re being called to isn’t radical transformation, but instead a refocus on what really matters.  The change you are being called to might just be a call to increase the capacity in a certain area of your life. 

My prayer is that we understand the Holy Spirit as one of our very best friends.  This is a best friend who brings forth the most amazing benefits.  These are benefits that not even Jesus’ own disciples had when they were walking next to Him.  The disciples never truly grasped who Jesus was until after the resurrection.  No matter how many times Jesus explained that He was the Son of God, the Redeemer, the Advocate, the One Judge and the New High Priest, these twelve guys seemed to shrug it off and act befuddled.  Until the Holy Spirit, the agent of change, spoke truth into them.  This truth transformed them and sustained them unto their deaths.  There is no better witness to lasting transformation through the power of the Holy Spirit than that. 

And this sort of lasting change is available to us too.  That’s Good News.

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