There are things we can change about our character and behavior. By focusing our attention on the change we want, being highly motivated and determined, getting the support needed for the long haul, there are choices we can make and changes we can bring about. At other times what we can’t change is changed in us. We are released from the problem or given the new way. To succeed we must accept what has been given and find what it takes to hold onto the gift.
Yet many things seem to be built into our cells and emotional makeup beyond our ability to change. Perfectionism plagues me from many angles. The pattern is deeply entrenched. I can even get caught trying to be perfect about letting go of being perfect! What do we do with those changes we deeply desire but that don’t happen? Often they are a source of shame and low self-esteem.
The apostle Paul offers perspective and hope. He speaks about a thorn in his flesh, “a messenger of Satan to torment me.” He prays several times to be rid of it but it doesn’t happen. Instead God responds, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12: 7b-10). The invitation is for an inward change that results in self-acceptance and knowledge that one is first and foremost a beloved child of God. How the invitation and the resulting moves come I can’t say–maybe through experiences that open our eyes, through words or actions of others, in giving up our pretensions to be God, and/or in quiet opening to God. But that God’s love for us just as we are is available, I am sure.
Paul talks about his experience, “If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new” (2 Corinthians 5: 17-19). He doesn’t mean that behaviors that torment us go away. He means that our weakness contains a gift. The torment can make it clear that our strength comes in depending on God and that God is dependable. Abiding in that awareness is what I think it means to be “in Christ.” In Christ, the troublesome issue may not change, but it no longer defines us. Inwardly we become new. We live in the power of Christ, not of the “thorn.” The torment loses some of its grip, and we have gifts to give the world through a wounded and healed heart.
What change have you found beyond your ability to make happen?
In what ways has your life been transformed?
Centering prayer, or another form of meditation, may open you to being changed in unexpected ways. For information on this form of prayer, see www.contemplativeoutreach.org or Father Thomas Keating, Open Mind, Open Heart.
For further reflection:
See the 2 Corinthians passages referred to above.
The story of Jesus with Zacchaeus (See Luke 19: 1-10).