Friday, 28 January 2011

The Pained Gift of Change

Tiger Woods signed a contract for $20,000,000 before he had ever won a Pro tournament then much to his new sponsor's horror, changed. It was a difficult time for all involved. Not only is change difficult, it is also painful. Painful, that is, if there is a commitment to the change. It is in this phase of change that we must settle a nagging question: "Am I really committed to this change?" To answer "Yes" is to subscribe to frustration and pain. But these subscriptions don't last. And while some subscriptions come with bonus offers, the subscription to changing comes with a bonus that can not be achieved any other way: positive improvement.
2Cor. 3:18 But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

Whaite Water rafting down the Mersey RiverBefore Tiger Woods had even won a professional golf tournament, Nike signed him to a twenty million dollar sponsorship contract and Titlelist signed him for forty million dollars. These companies saw the potential in the young golfer. When Tiger played his first Major, he won it. Actually, he didn't just won it, he won it by an unprecedented 14 strokes! This was a history-making winning margin. Golf writers began speculating that Tiger would go on to become the greatest golfer of all time. But Tiger did something that astounded everyone. After winning his first Major, he went to a golf-coach and asked for help with his swing! Even though he was awarded many accolades he wasn't happy with his game. The coach made some adjustments to Tiger's swings. And unless you're a golfer or tennis player, you're not going to understand what this really means. When a coach adjusts a player's swing it takes many months to fully implement it. And in those many months of change there is huge frustration. Balls that you could hit well with your previous swing and now getting sprayed with new stroke. And this is what happened to Tiger. Golf writers described the next twelve months of Tiger's career as "an off year". As humiliating as that period of change for Tiger was, it eventually paid off. He went on to win all of the Majors - many times - and is now regared as the greatest golfer since Jack Nicklaus.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect..Romans 12:2
The saying goes- GOD LOVES US JUST THE WAY WE ARE, BUT HE LOVES US TOO MUCH TO LEAVE US THE WAY WE ARE. God wants us to change. This begins in our thinking. What they think determines our attitude and our attitude determines whether we will, or won't, change positively. Consider the person who never owns their faults and mistakes. Instead, they live in denial by always blaming others. Their story might sound like a string a broken friendships where they were continually being "hurt" by people. In such a story, there is only one common element: them. And what they call "hurt" may actually be someone trying to correct them. To be sure, some people are the innocent victims of abuse, but that is a different story to the kind of story I'm referring to here. Unless this person changes, this story will probably continue - and even worse, this person will never grow up. They need a renewed attitude, a different way of thinking, a Romans 12:2. Instead of seeing people as being against them, if they can change in their thinking to realise that when people try to correct them, it is to help them, they can begin to 'own' their lives and grow positively.
Dr Henry Cloud tells the story of being at a retreat with a group of Company CEOs. In the group were some very seasoned Executives and one very young and enthusiastic CEO. After they each shared with the group about their work, and in particular after the young CEO had shared about his company and where he was taking it, an older CEO came up to him and offered, "Can I give you a word of advice?" Henry Cloud was watching this exchange. He wondered whether the somewhat brash young CEO would fob the older CEO off. Instead, what he witnessed amazed him. The young CEO replied, "No, not at all. I'd appreciate the gift." The gift. This younger CEO regarded correction as a "gift". Henry Cloud then saw why this young man had risen through the ranks of this company so quickly: He was committed to seeing correction as the means of personal growth. It therefore came as no surprise to Dr Cloud to hear the reports over the next few years of this young CEO's stellar career in business leadership.
¶ Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
but he who hates correction is stupid. 

Prov. 12:1
We are so conditioned by our sin-natures to blame and not own our mistakes and failings. Afterall, it started in the Garden when Adam blamed God for his sin ("the woman YOU GAVE me made me do it"). But growth comes from owning our mistakes and failings and then changing. Yes, it hurts. Yes, there is pain. But it's pain with gain. By owning mistakes and faults we are then able to ask a growth question: how can I change this? What do I have to do differently to avoid this happening again? Blame doesn't actually fix anything. Change does. To have someone confront us about our bad, childish, behaviour, presents us with two immediate options- firstly, reject their correction and become defensive (that is, excuse ourselves), or secondly, accept what they say as a gift even if it is painful, and positively change as a result.
If you have parents who correct you, especially your attitude, view it as a gift. If you have friends who pull you up for pouting and point out to you that your attitude is childish, view it as a gift. If you have a pastor who challenges you to grow and stretch, view it as a gift. If your spouse has confronted you about your behaviour or attitude and you rejected their gift and became defensive and dismissive by blaming, go to them now and apologise. Humble yourself and ask them for forgiveness and invite them to speak honestly with you about your attitude and behaviour anytime. Their loving correction is a gift. Albeit, a gift that is painful. Receiving the gift of correction though is only the start of change. The pain of change is in the commitment to keep changing.
Highly successful people know that "good" is the enemy of "great". To go from good to great requires change. In the transition period of change it becomes frustrating. Letting go of something before you've fully grasped something else is always unsettling. This is why moving house is so stressful for most people. But without the pained gift of change, we cannot grow. As a church it is comfortable to keep things as they are. We love our small group where we know everyone and are known by everyone. But then our small group becomes too large and we are forced to change. Resisting this change leads to stagnation both individually and for the group. Embracing this painful change leads to challenging growth. The same goes for a marriage gone stale where a wife is trying to tell her husband that she is feeling neglected by him and that she wants him change. He can of course become defensive and tell her that he has to work long hours, that he needs to watch TV silently to unwind, and that his time in workshop is what keeps him sane - or he can own the problem, apologise, and ask for advice on how to fix his problem. (I know which one is more painful.)
How do you need to change? Do you have people who care enough about you that they are trying to tell you something for your own good? Do you only ever become defensive when someone confronts you about your behaviour or attitude? Have you ever asked for someone to speak honestly into your life, even though you knew it would be painful to hear?
The process of being committed to change is frustrating and somewhat painful. If you're like me, changing from using food to only eating food is really painful. Changing from always being instantly defensive to thanking someone for the helpful insight, is a painful process. But the process of change is a means to growth and growing in character means that the kinds of change that used to hurt, don't pain us as much as they once used to.
Father, we need to change and we need Your grace to do it. Our salvation start with a shocking change called repentance and continues through change called sanctification. Please bring people into our lives who can help us to change - not just be critical or demeaning of our faults and mistakes. Help us to become the people You want us to become. And when it hurts too much, give us extra grace to stay committed to the process of change. Lord, we thank You for Your good plan for our lives even when it hurts. Amen.
Eph. 3:21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Ps. Andrew

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