We are not the sum of our worries, the total of our mistakes. We are not our thoughts, our wounds, our successes. We are not what we carry. Indeed, we are carried, and its in our Careful Maker we find our purpose and form and beauty.
So often I aspire to be the Potter, the shaper of my existence and circumstance. Or I slump into thinking I am the shapeless fluid of what I carry inside. But I hold my life as I am held. I shape my inner life as I am shaped by God.
(Part 1 in the Habits of a Transforming Heart Series)
"How Can I Really Change?”
This question rattled in my brain as I ran through a snowstorm at night. I was running from myself, but somehow I always caught up. My self talk whipped like the icy wind. Sane people don’t jog at night during a storm. What are you—crazy? You’ll never get away from all your problems. You’ll never change.
How do we transform into who God wants us to be? How do we change when our brain tells us we never can? These are important questions. Questions worth considering. Your answer on how change actually happens will make or break you in the snowstorm at night when your thoughts are as jagged as the wind.
If your answer, like mine on that night of desperation, is running harder, trying to drown out your thoughts with breathless effort, then you will be exhausted with nothing substantial to show.
I may be a few pounds lighter after a week, but I will still be the same unchanged inner person. I will think those problem thoughts again when I hang up my running shoes because I can’t outrun the problem. The problem lives in me and gets bigger because I’m trying to fix it. How can I ever really change?
Maybe a better question to ask in the dark night of the soul is how exactly will God transform me? About half way in my night run, at the farthest point from home, I gave up on the inside. I told God, “I can’t do this anymore. I can’t change myself. I need You! Bad. So if you can take whatever THIS is” (here, I motioned to myself) “if you can take THIS and change me—please do it. Earlier rather than later, God.”
The technical term for this out-of-breath, tear-stained, last-bit-of-the-rope prayer is “Surrender.” And it is the foundational habit of a transforming heart.
Because surrendering to God opens the door for Him to do his heavy lifting in the work of spiritual transformation. His transformation is often a mysterious process, and we can’t always see or feel it. But God is the one transforming things. Our part is surrendering ourselves to His transformative work by cultivating habits that bring us into His presence with an open heart and mind.
One such transformational habit I’m working on is to pray a prayer of surrender before I start my day. Laying my mess at God’s feet and asking the Holy Spirit to lead me this day. Offering Him my all. Trying to take my directions from God often grates on my ego, but it’s better than taking directions from my self talk, my self pride, and my self will.
He is a Good Father, not a slave-driver. Not like so many of us with our whipping thoughts. He will guide us through the dark snowstorm, cheering us on the entire way home: We can do this. You will really change.
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.- Romans 12:1-2 NLT
The Little Book of Fika: The Uplifting Daily Ritual of the Swedish Coffee Break by Lynda Balslev is a delightful, quick read introducing the Swedish art form of taking a coffee break. It's about making a simple, sweet moment to connect with those around you, yourself, or God. Typically, one has a cup of coffee and a sweet treat once in the morning and once in the afternoon, for 12 minutes if you're working and for 24 minutes if you're not.
My grandparents from the Netherlands practice a Dutch coffee time in the morning and tea time in the afternoon. Reading this book brought me back to all those warm memories as a young adult around their coffee table. This month I have been incorporating "Fika" back into my life when I can. It has given me opportunity to savor the moment, God's grace, the people around me, and of course delicious coffee! "Fika" time always comes at just the right time!
This book is free to instantly borrow on Hoopla if your public library sponsors it. (Here in Nova Scotia, Colchester - East Hants Public Library and Halifax Public Libraries do support Hoopla.)
in the Writing Office:
My brother Alex loves poetry. The creative impulse flows in both our veins. He bought me a membership to the Poetry magazine for my birthday two years ago. I think of what a gift Alex is every time a new issue arrives. Percy the Golden loves sniffing around in them, and I want to bury my nose in them too! ⠀
Now Alex is in the hospital recovering from a cardiac arrest. He's a fighter. He's also a poet. He has new life flowing in his veins, and I believe God will use his journey to healing to create something new and good that was never there before in our lives. It's a reminder for all of us to create our best poetry with the lives we lead. ⠀
Please join me in praying for Alex's full recovery. If you have any words of encouragement for him, simply respond to this email, and I'll make sure he gets them!