At the start of this pandemic, I was convinced the quarantine was an amazing opportunity to change. While being stuck at home was not what anybody would want, fewer commitments meant more time and freedom. Those lingering house projects? Not anymore, I’d have time to become Chip Gaines! More time to spend with the family? Break out Candy Land! Those lingering bad habits? Plenty of freedom to break them!
I can change. That was my motto at the beginning of this pandemic, but now?
I’m tired…what’s on Netflix?
My desire to change, my plan to change, did not actually lead to change. Why not?
That is one of the questions Paul asks us to consider in Romans 12, which is the subject of our sermon series We Can Change. But even as we explore this question, there are two traps we must be careful to avoid.
One, we will NOT say, “Just give up…people never change.” We have all said this in exasperation of others whose mistakes run on repeat, frustrating us, or doing us harm. In exasperation of ourselves, why do I keep doing the things I know won’t bring me life? The Bible makes it clear that change is coming. My favorite verse? 1 John 3:2
Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.
We shall be like Jesus. We believe that.
Two, we will NOT attempt to become self-help motivators. There will be no Tony Robbins exercises in church. The self-help industry is a 13 billion dollar industry! But I promise you, this pastor will not attempt to join that industry.
So, how do we change? Why did I fail to change in this pandemic?
If I had known back in March what I know now, I would have been much more skeptical of my desire to change in a season of pandemic. Quarantine has meant isolation. Disruption to our schedules has meant less engagement with people. Our relational tanks are nearly empty and despite more free time, we are running on fumes. All of these things stand in the way of change. When we are relationally empty, it is nearly impossible to change.
How do we change?
I cannot completely answer that question in my final paragraphs but here are a few thoughts
First, one way we benefit from being part of a church community is to explore this question together. That is why you need to be in church (online, outdoors, indoors, however you do it!).
Next, recognize that change is not about effort. It is not about life hacks. Change is, in the words of Paul—the renewal of our minds (Romans 12:2). That is the challenge. Brain science (and the book of Romans) will tell you our failure to change is not a lack of willpower, lack of information, or desire on our part. Change will not come when you finally find the right podcast.
Finally, know that our inability to change comes from a lack of joy. A deficit in love. Relational wounds and breakdowns that lead us to the same sinful habits and patterns we so desperately want to break. Paul addresses this in Romans. In Christ there is joy, a relationship available to us—that means—we can change.
Check out our sermon series “We Can Change.”