Change Takes Time – Be Patient With Yourself

IMG_0189Can people change fast? Maybe, but I’m not so sure. It seems to me that the vast majority of good things are accomplished slowly. Destruction and demolition are fast, but construction takes time. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Too often we imagine that change is like turning the light switch on and off – make up your mind to do something different, and then “just do it.” Keep it up for three weeks and presto! You have a new habit! But that’s not too realistic. Slow progress is more the rule. Constructing a building or growing a tree are better metaphors.

People often spend long periods of time considering or contemplating change, not yet ready to actually try something different. Even when they begin, new thinking and new habits often take years to become firmly established or fully expressed. Change is usually a process rather than an event. Getting started in any change process, we simply don’t know everything and we don’t know what we don’t know. It takes a while to learn and embed new thinking and behaviors.

Personally, my understanding of, and commitment to, living a lifestyle conducive to physical, emotional and spiritual health continues to deepen with time. After more than 10 years at it, my exercise habit is pretty well evolved and is probably as firmly established as it can be. On the other hand, eating “clean” is still a work in progress. So are my discipleship habits. Some weeks are okay; others are not so good.

I don’t think we should be surprised at this. Progressive development seems to be a part of the natural order of God’s creation. Babies grow slowly into adults. We must spend years to master new complex subjects in school. Plants grow to maturity only over time and, for trees, often the faster the growth, the weaker the wood. Majestic hardwood trees typically are slow growers.IMG_4722

Jesus himself likened the kingdom of God to a very small mustard seed, which eventually grows to become the largest tree in the garden. Eventually not instantaneously. Assuming that our desire for positive change results from discipleship rather than vanity or other selfish motives, it represents part of our sanctification process. None of us should expect instant sanctification.

Some trees grow fast, others more slowly. Trees simply grow however fast they grow. We can help them along with good care, but we can’t force the issue. So it is with the kingdom of God in you. It’s your job to feed, water and fertilize that mustard tree, but God will determine how fast it grows. It may be considerably slower than you would like.

So be patient and persistent. Be kind and gentle with yourself. Don’t quit. Trust God and press on with your program to live healthier, always submitting yourself and your goals to him who never fails.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Phil 1:6