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Photo by Ed Rybczynski

Photo by Ed Rybczynski

Leaving is not easy. Starting over is never easy either. But sometimes, that’s all we can do. Circumstances and time and emotions come to a head, and it’s clear, something must change. At this time of year, we mockingly call them resolutions (and I say mocking, because we laugh at our poor resolve over the years). But true change is no joke. True beginnings are powerful and even painful.

Genesis 31:3; 17-18
Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.” . . . Then Jacob put his children and his wives on camels,and he drove all his livestock ahead of him, along with all the goods he had accumulated in Paddan Aram,to go to his father Isaac in the land of Canaan.

Meaningful change is rarely made overnight with a glass of champagne in one hand and horn in the other. It’s rarely a wish list; it’s a must list. That kind of break with the past comes after a build up, a collection of situations, a norm that is no longer acceptable.

Often it takes an epiphany or insight, a new view of an old way, that becomes the impetus for change or builds a desire or appetite for metamorphosis. We see with new eyes. We see reality. We see truth. And it is longer acceptable.

In Jacob’s world, it took more than fourteen years to realize that something had to change. He had achieved the short-term goal of acquiring wives and even children, but he was still dependent on Laban. It was time to grow up.

I remember making a very small discovery, probably in my late twenties, that there was no one who would be picking up after me. If I chose to leave dirty dishes, they would be there the next day. If I put my clothes on the floor, they would remain. If I forgot to water the plants, they would die. If I wanted my immediate environment to be pleasant and acceptable, I would have to do it.

But sometimes, the changes are more challenging, like women who have entered abusive relationships or tied themselves to addictive personalities or other enslavements (drugs, alcohol, food, sex, television, and other mind-numbing substitutions for living). To see these situations in their true form is beyond difficult and may require divine intervention.

For myself, I pray for open eyes this day, to see clearly. I pray for God’s revelation and direction. I pray for loved ones whose eyes are still closed. I pray for my role in their lives. I pray for grace and mercy and courage. I ask for epiphanies to abound.

Today. Not resolutions but meaningful change.

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Favoritism with ice cream is a lot different than favoritism with people. Oh I might try not to judge people on first impressions but I find it inescapable. Can I overcome these moments with intentional action?

James 2:1, 4
My brothers [and sisters], as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. . . . have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

Some years ago when we still lived in Atlanta, we attended a small church composed mostly of fellow believers who had been asked to split away from a larger denominational church because of our bent toward the charismatic. One of our leaders, Jim, was a wonderful man, kind and dignified, smart and loving. I will never forget the day he taught about enthusiasm: “If you want to be enthusiastic, sometimes you just have to act enthusiastic to feel it.” And then he proceeded to stomp and cheer and pump his arms around like a lunatic. It was hysterical but his message stayed with me.

Personally, enthusiasm comes easily to me. In fact, when I’m excited about a project, I’m quite the cheerleader, almost nauseatingly so, I’m sure. But how can I take that passionate commitment to action and use it to break down my internal tendencies toward judging others through intentional choices to change?

Some people call it a “besetting sin.” When I looked that up, it can also mean a type of harassment, or being surrounded, or an obsession. I can certainly relate to my judging of others in that way. My time in confessional prayers is dominated by asking forgiveness for my judgments. And in my way of thinking, judgment and favoritism go hand in hand. I cannot “favor” one person above the other without having made a negative of judgment of the other.

What to do? I know I can’t just tell myself to stop. If that worked, I’d be golden by now. Should I treat it as a bad habit and follow these 29 Tips for Changing a behavior?

Here are some suggestions from Oprah.com (go figure) written by Tim Jarvis. At first I was going to make a joke about it, but perhaps I need to take a few of these ideas to heart:

  • Like the Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, it may take a number of efforts to get to the “boiling point” or threshold when things happen. So, in my case, the more I tackle this issue, the more aware I am and the more opportunities to get over the hump.
  • I need to think more about the other side, what it would look like and feel like to “not” be a judge so much. Instead of looking back at my failures, look ahead.
  • One of the approaches for change is to engage in community. This is why groups like Weight Watchers and Alcoholics Anonymous are so important: support and encouragement. Hmmm. Not sure how to translate my habit of the heart into a club of regenerated judges.

A friend of mine who struggles with food addiction says that this is one of the most difficult addictions to tackle. After all, unlike alcohol and drugs which can, to some degree be avoided, food is always with us. I think judging and dis-favoring others is similar. People are everywhere. I say that I love to “people watch,” but I wonder if that’s not just a buzz word for judging, mocking, and categorizing. Not a good thing.

What do you do? Honestly. Am I really alone out here?

Lord, forgive me again. Today. And right now, I’d appreciate it.

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