CONTENT CREDIT: This article first appeared at www.pivotpointministries.org and is reprinted with permission.
Letting God Set the Agenda
When it comes to the human condition and a desire to change, we can become easily frustrated: we think that we want to change . . . but we really don’t. Paul expresses this contradiction well in Romans 7:15-24:
“I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
The Message by Eugene Peterson (2003)
Change means that something becomes different. Whether the change is the result of an internal event or an external event, something different has to happen and the change needs to be processed and internalized in order to be meaningful and to be sustained. The source of the change makes no difference as one passes through the chaos that precedes change.
When Paul states, “I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.”, we hear the foundation for the words of both St. Benedict and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther. Benedict speaks of daily conversion and Luther speaks of the daily dying and rising of the self in order to be freed from all that holds us back. Change begins as we die to self and live for Christ. This happens only by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Word of God.
Change begins in the transformation of the core, as one sits in the presence of God, praying the Scriptures through the process of Lectio Divina. What is the Word saying to me today? What is God calling me to do and to be? What has to die in order for this to happen?
Change doesn’t happen because one decides it is going to happen. First, it is important to recognize that it may not be the change that one thinks one is going to make. The agenda for change is God’s, not ours. While praying the Word, pose the question, “God, what part of my life needs to be converted?” God will honor that prayer.
You may want to lose weight, quit smoking, stop drinking alcohol, break away from pornography, but that may not be where God wants to start the process. God may lead you to look deeper at the roots of behavior and begin the healing process at that point, rather than where you think you should start. Through prayer, find the area of life that God wants to convert and begin there, as the Holy Spirit works in powerful ways.
Paul acknowledges that we cannot do this on our own, when he writes, “Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” We need to be rescued and this happens as the Holy Spirit works through the Word.
Begin with the practice of Lectio Divina (sacred reading):
- Choose a place and time that are quiet and uninterrupted. You will need at least 15 minutes to get the most out of this practice.
- If you don’t know what Bible passage to read, choose a Psalm—a great one to start with is Psalm 46. Especially the first few times through this process, choose a short passage, as it will be easier to focus on it and draw a main idea from it.
- Pray that the Holy Spirit would lead the process. Pray for the Holy Spirit to quiet your mind and bless your time in Scripture.
- If you get distracted or tired, don’t worry or criticize yourself. Simply bring your mind back to the Bible passage, re-read it, and be grateful for God’s Word.
- Read the selected Scripture three times.
- First, while reading, focus on a word or phrase from this text, given to you by the Holy Spirit.
- Second, read the text again and listen for how God is speaking to you TODAY in the context of your life and this Scripture.
- Third, read the text again and listen for how God is calling you to serve.
- Journal about your experience, while seeking God’s presence and call.
May God bless you as you engage in this process of transformative change, while being led by the Holy Spirit through God’s Word.
Contact the Benedictine Center (651.777.7251) to schedule a free initial consultation with Steve or another member of the spiritual direction team.