Spiritual Life

Choose to change through personal initiative

Why is it that many of us refuse to change until forced to?

Choosing to change by initiative rather than by persuasion or coercion. Choosing to change because it is the right thing to do rather than the easiest. There are plenty of examples, from simple to complex in terms of difficulty to change.

Lawns. So far not many brown lawns here in the desert. Some have told me they will not cut back until forced to, no matter the warnings and predictions. Even reducing to a level ensuring grass survival but not lush emerald is scoffed at … at least until forced to change.

Personal fireworks. Really? As bone-dry as our land is? As an old church camp song goes: “It only takes a spark to get a fire going …” (from Pass It On, Kurt Kaiser); and soon we are celebrating the land of the scorched and the home of the displaced. Keeping our fireworks in the box may be the most patriotic thing we can do (voluntary change).

Flags. One author observes: “It take a breeze to make a banner speak” (The Singer Trilogy, Calvin Miller). Pennants serve to inspire emotions and behaviors — for good or for ill. Currently, one flag in particular is under renewed intense scrutiny and debate. Change is resisted based on various arguments. Each side claims the other side doesn’t understand. Yet, sadly, change comes not out of human decency but until enough pressure applied.

Violence. The reality or threat of harm to others — partial or total — is leverage still used in many societies, communities and relationships. From menacing stares to massacres exposed in media, having and using a bigger weapon seems to be the ultimate source of trust, our monetary phrase notwithstanding. Some, commonly known as prophets, have demonstrated a “more excellent way” (The Bible, I Corinthians 13). However, mainstream and wholesale change too often does not come — you guessed it — until it is forced and enforced. Sigh!

Greed. Often, we proclaim innocence like the one who said, “I’m not greedy; all I want is the land that adjoins mine!” Churches and corporations, citizens and politicians are susceptible to the assumption that bigger is better. The phrase “less is more” is rarely taken seriously, unless the trade-off creates a, uh, better situation.

Relationships. This is the tough one: forgiveness, compassion, selflessness, mercy — each is usually considered only when the alternative is unacceptable or unfathomable. Too often we hear, “I will change when the other person changes.” This approach or attitude dams the flow of beneficial change.

Ultimately, change is a spiritual thing. The impetus for change may dwell in the human mind, heart,soul or it may be a gift from God. Indeed, we can and do change; we can be “transformed by the renewal of our minds (toward) what is good and pleasing and mature” (The Bible, Romans 12:2).

Like the seed growing, willingness to change grows in our lives not with external enforcement but with inner determination to make a positive difference for the sake of life and living.

Timothy J. Ledbetter, DMin, BCC is an American Baptist-endorsed professional chaplain and member of Shalom United Church of Christ in Richland. Questions and comments should be directed to editor Lucy Luginbill in care of the Tri-City Herald newsroom, 333 W. Canal Drive, Kennewick, WA 99336. Or email lluginbill@tricityherald.com.