"Close your eyes and think for a minute. If you could change one thing about your life, what would it be?"
I gave the women in my seminar a couple of minutes to think, then we shared some of the things we'd come up with.
We agreed there are two kinds of change: things you can change and things you can't. A change from singleness to marriage? Not under my control. A clean living room? Well, maybe I can manage that.
In my case, the change I want is almost always to do with self-improvement. Eat better. Exercise more. Run our home efficiently. Hug my kids more. Get irritable less often. Pray regularly. Read the Bible faithfully. Worry less. I could do my head in with all the changes I'd like to make.
For me, change is about becoming a better Jean. It's about my inner life becoming uncluttered and peaceful. It's about managing my tasks and responsibilities with serenity and skill. It's about mastering the things I struggle with. It's about control. It hasn't got much to do with love.
Which is why this perfectionist needed to hear these words from chapter 1 of Tim Chester's You Can Change:
Jesus shows us God's agenda for change. God isn't interested in making us religious. Think of Jesus, who was hated by religious people. God isn't interested in making us 'spiritual' if by spiritual we mean detached: Jesus was God getting stuck in. God isn't interested in making us self-absorbed: Jesus was self-giving personified. God isn't interested in serenity. Jesus was passionate for God, angry at sin, wept for the city.
God's goal for us is that we become like his Son. It's not self-improvement. It's not peace. It's not control. It's not serenity. It's Christ-likeness. As Chester says, it's not about becoming a better Jean, it's about becoming a better Jesus.*
I've noticed that when the New Testament calls us to be like Jesus, it talks about his death: the humility of his death (Phil 2:1-11), the patient endurance of his death (1 Pet 2:20-25, Heb 12:1-3), the self-giving love of his death (1 Jn 4:7-21).
It's not so much "What Did Jesus Do?" as "How Did Jesus Die?" (HDJD - now there's a new acronym for those armbands!).
We take Jesus' life and make yet another set of rules for living: Jesus offers his death, and calls us to follow in the footsteps of a love that can't possibly be defined by rules. A love which calls me away from my self-absorbed perfectionism to the messy service of others.
At the end of chapter 1 Tim Chester encourages us to choose a personal "change project" to work through as we read his book. I decide to face the issue I've avoided for so many years: I'd like to give up my self-absorbed perfectionism, and to live in the freedom and self-giving love of God's grace.
That's my change project. What's yours? You might like to choose one and think about it during this series, as we seek together to be changed into the likeness of Christ.
So whom do you want to be like? What would you like to change? Please don’t settle for anything less than being like Jesus and reflecting the glory of God.
If you'd like to see or use my seminar How Change Happens, which is based on Tim Chester's You Can Change, please contact me.
* A slightly odd phrase which makes sense in the context of a story about Chester's daughter. He doesn't mean "improve on Jesus" but "be like Jesus". In other words, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me" Gal 2:20
quotes are from chapter 1 of Tim Chester's You Can Change
images are from stock.xchng and mommylolly at flickr