You might want to avoid the Saint Paul method - they say it can go hard on you. I’m talking about that watershed moment on the Damascus road, where Saint Paul got (as we liked to repeat loudly in Sunday School) “knocked off his ass”. Saint Paul was converted the hard way. He went from being Saul, the pugnacious persecutor of the early church, to Paul, the new name given him by Annanias his baptizer and confessor. Act 9:17-118 tells us, “Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized.”
The scales fell from his eyes… that’s where we get the saying. He went from temporary blindness to seeing the world anew, and his conversion was total, complete, and instant. Here and there you will run into people like that who had an epiphany and suddenly turned their life around on a dime. I wonder sometimes which is better, because the fact is, it is HARD to change. They say the only constant is change, and they say that you should embrace change. Still, I’m inclined to think that change more often comes seeking you. You many feel like you are not ready, but I also believe that “instantaneous” change is only possible because the change required has built up into a steaming mess over a very long time.
There are theories out there that will help you embrace change. One is the “nudge” method. Think of it as a tweak in vector. You get set in the right direction, which helps you get where you’re going, just not all at once. Nudge recognizes that it’s very hard to go whole hog. There’s forming new habits, made famous by Stephen R. Covey. In this model, changing the small rituals of your life will also get you to a different place. Little things lead to wholesale transformation. Both of these methods acknowledge that it is HARD to change. Like the African question: how do you eat an elephant? The right answer might be, in bites.
My coronary bypass handbook, gets me to take inventory of my habits. It tells me to make promises to myself that I can reasonably expect to own up to. Hold off those big “whole life” kind of promises, and focus on what I can do right here, right now, today, what I can commit to, so that I won’t disappoint myself or anybody else. That’s the other part of change. Married people will have a somewhat vocal cheerleader who gets a front row seat to your dazzling faults and is well aware of the multitude of things you need to change.
Life can hold a few interesting cards up its sleeve. A heart attack is one of them. Chances are it is no surprise. If someone asked you after a heart attack, how it happened, you might only wonder why it did not happen sooner. In my own case, I told my wife, if you were to give me all the same variables in my life, the honest answer is that I would have done those same things all over again which gave me the heart attack in the first place. It’s not just one big thing, it’s the constant drip of many little things over time that will get you. Hence, unwinding the question mark that comes with a heart attack is not so easy. To get to a different place means consciously changing some of those small variables, in a gradual sequence as time marches forward.
A heart attack is a dramatic juncture that should give you permission for some changes. There’s getting your body off couch into a pair of runners. There’s the matter of eating better. There’s the fact of stress and changing the way you deal with it. There’s the basic matter of how you see yourself, and how you picture your life going forward. There’s the existential question of “what shall I do with my life?” that is much more than merely diet and exercise. The young men will see visions and the old men will dream dreams.
Yes it’s hard to change, and it’s particularly hard to change all at once. Ask the Apostle Paul. Like a coronary patient, he found himself on the cold hard ground looking up and wondering “what the hell happened?”. They call it an epiphany. Sometimes the change comes to you, and when it does, you have to deal with it because you really have no other choice at that point. You may only distance yourself by degrees. The goal, like the Apostle Paul, is to eventually find yourself in a different place, by changing the little things you do along the way. It will make you into a new person, God willing. God is indeed willing, though I am not really sure that I am.