Catalyst of Change

For some time now I have felt poised on the cusp of change. The kind of change that seems to promise more— in the sense of a richer, fuller, more abundant experience of life. Most often, the types of changes I have experienced have been circumstantial changes. There was a change when I started college, and when I graduated college. There was a change when I got married, and when I had a child. There was a change when I started my first job, and when I switched to my second. But this cusp of change I feel now is internal. It seems that a shift in my thoughts, my actions, and my experience will be the catalyst of whatever is to follow – but how do I get there?

Two years ago, someone told me that instead of picking a New Year’s Resolution, they picked a word or idea they try to live out for the next 365 days. Having never really made or stuck to a New Year’s resolution, I thought picking a word sounded like a worthwhile thing to try. I knew exactly what word it was to be too: Bold. I wanted to be bold by being courageous in the situations that usually scared me to inaction, and I wanted to be bold in my faith. More often than not, I shy away from sharing the foundation of my life. The beliefs that undergird my ideas and instigate my actions stay quietly tucked in the center of my mind. I wanted them to make the journey through my words to other’s ears in a powerful way, instead of the ambiguous way I felt I mentioned them when I even brought them up at all.

At the end of the year, I looked back and discovered my attempt at boldness had been meek and for the good part ineffective. Despite wanting to be different, I had no idea how to actually enact the transformation. Another thing I struggle with is diligence. When I have an idea or become interested in a new topic I go all in for the first while. I always noticed this during school. At the beginning of the term I meticulously prepared all my supplies. There would be new and creative ideas about how I would study, and even about the things I was learning floating around in my mind. As the term progressed though, I would become more lax. No longer did I follow through on my interesting ideas or thoughts from before. Some endeavors I would consciously give up on and move on to something else, some would be forced out, unnoticed, by a new thing and others still would die a quiet death, having never been explored or enacted.

The good thing about school is that it is structured into seasons. There is always an end in sight to power on towards, and new beginning to look forward to. Most importantly perhaps, there is a break. Between terms, there is a time to relax, to be refreshed and renewed, and a time to build up the possibility of what is to come. In reflection, it is obvious that this time of rest is crucial. Each break was not only a time to get away from school, but also a time to contemplate the previous term and a time to replenish before the next. How necessary and beautiful these breaks are in our lives!

When I tried to be bold, there was no break. There was a given ‘term’ or ‘season’ for me to practice boldness, that year, but I had built in no periods of contemplation or replenishing. Right now I’m reading through Journeys of Faithfulness by Sarah Clarkson. In the very first chapter, Sarah creatively explores the story of Martha and Mary. She paints the picture of Mary being gentle, kind, and meek, but also feeling unnoticed— just as we have all felt unnoticed and unknown at some point in our life. In the story, when Jesus sees Mary she suddenly feels seen, known, and noticed. She also feels loved, and loved unconditionally.

After the narrative, Sarah offers her own reflection and devotional. As I was reading through it, I noticed a theme she chose to highlight was Mary’s boldness. Bold! The seed of desire to be bold from two years ago perked up inside me. I reread the story and devotional underlining each part where Mary was bold, or where Mary’s boldness was explored by Sarah in her devotional. Soon, it became clear where my failing had been.

In the bible, we read of Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus (Luke 10:38-42). In Sarah’s  telling of the story, this truth suddenly became real to me through the beautiful picture Sarah’s words were able to create in my mind. Mary lived in Jesus’ love and she had no choice but to return to his feet whenever he taught. She must have felt a longing to return to his presence each time she left it (can you imagine being in Jesus’ presence?) and a strong, unwavering peace whenever she was in it. In my life, I can think of people who’s presence leaves me feeling filled-up, joyful, and replenished. Being in the presence of Jesus must have felt the same, but in ten-fold! In fact, I realized that in my life, there have been times of prayer and worship where I have been in the presence of Jesus, and I have felt His peace, and I have left those times renewed in spirit.

So it’s no wonder that Mary became bold in her life by sitting at Jesus’ feet. The time she invested into listening to the words of Our Teacher and simply being with Our Greatest Friend were each like those breaks I had between school terms. To be in Jesus’ presence is to contemplate where we have been, and to be replenished on where we are going. Strangely enough, the reflection of our past and preparation of our future only happens when we live fully in the present moment. There’s a paradox for you.

I live busy. The complaint I most often hear from the people I am closest with is that they are busy. There seems never to be enough time for the things we think we need to do—and yet I believe that God gives us exactly the amount of time we need for the things he has called us to. I believe this, and yet I fail so often to live it out. My actions do not reflect the words, the truth, that my heart, mind and soul are whispering to me. Each time I realize this (yes, I’ve realized this before) my pride is knocked down and I have no choice but to shamefully return to the Lord and apologize. Like our pet dog when she knows she has done something wrong, I hang my head and metaphorically tuck my tail between my legs as I make my way to Our Father.

He only ever returns my shame and wrongdoing with Grace.

Then I laugh at myself, at my pride and self-righteousness. How could I ever have thought to be bold without taking time to spend at Jesus’ feet? Being in His presence is the catalyst of change.