Last week I wrote about the surprising difficulty I faced in trying to change a lifelong self-defeating behavior—being late to meetings. This week I want to tell you the story of what has happened since I admitted my problem and asked God to help me solve this irritating and frustrating habit. Dealing with this one foible is literally transforming my life—at age eighty-three—and giving me the courage to move ahead where I was stuck.
If you didn’t read last week’s blog you may not be able to understand the profound effect that changing one “small” bad habit has had on my whole life. I feel a little like the person who bought some andirons for their fireplace. They were attractive andirons but they made the fire screen look shabby by comparison. So a new fire screen became a necessity. Then the fire screen made the carpet and the drapes look old so—you know the rest of the story—changing out one small item, an andiron in the fireplace, led to the redecoration of an entire house.
For me, committing to let God help me deal with this one grundy little habit has led to my coming out of denial about the fact that I have been late to all kinds of meetings—even church, social, medical and business meetings—and that this has been a lifelong habit. Also these discoveries have led to some profound spiritual revelations about all of my life.
Here’s how this “momentous drama in a teacup” has unfolded. After a number of days of being on time for the noon meeting, I became aware that during this time I have also been on time for church meetings and other appointments in ways I haven’t been before. I began feeling pretty good about myself. But then one busy afternoon I lost track of time. When I finally did look at the clock, I saw I was late to a meeting. I decided to face the music by going to the meeting, even though it would be half over by the time I got there. I had also decided not to defend my pride by making an excuse—even though it could have been seen as a legitimate excuse—because of two things. One, I wanted to see what it would be like to face the music about failing in my attempt to change this lifelong habit in front of the very people I had told I was trying to change it. And the second reason is that by this time I was simply sick of making excuses.
The only vacant seat in the room was right up front, so I could not avoid being seen as tardy. I detected a few knowing smiles as I walked over to the chair, but as I felt the beginning heat of a shame attack, I silently prayed, “Thank you, God, for giving me the courage to trust you with my pride.” And as soon as I had silently prayed those words, the shame was gone! I realized that by facing one simple failure of intent openly, I was somehow free from the fear of failing to be on time—at least for the moment. I realized that I would fail to be on time occasionally. But I was still elated because I realized something the rest of you probably already know: by going public and telling the very people (some of whom were personally distracted by latecomers) that I was going to try to let God try to change a habit that I knew was rude and distracting to people who paid the price to be on time, I had been able to be on time for almost a month. And that’s the only meeting I was late to in over two weeks.
But an even bigger discovery God has dropped down my chimney is that the big locked doors in my life often swing on very small hinges. If I will oil the hinges by making one radical commitment to begin and surrender my life around that small issue, I may become able to adjust my thinking so that I am on time other places without my having to agonize over it. What I’m trying to say is that when I can ask God to help me solve some lifelong small irritating problem, I may find the courage to believe that I can finish doing major things on my plate—like writing the book Andrea and I have been working on for four and a half years. I have been afraid, recently, that I’ll die before finishing this book.
I now recognize that if I do die before finishing this book I will have had the thrill of learning some amazing things about the way God operated in the Bible story to give people the courage to trust Him, so that he can guide them to be the free and loving people he designed them to be from the beginning. I sincerely hope that I get to live long enough to finish and share that book with you, but if I don’t, at least I have had a small taste of what it might mean to begin living as an authentic child of God in the impossible hidden areas of my life.
Lord, thank you that it’s never too late “to find the keys to the car,” never too late to give the keys to You and begin letting You take me where You want me to go. This is a strange paradox for me that I don’t understand. But the fact that You have once again let me see how I have unknowingly put in denial things that I don’t think I can change…and evidently don’t think You can’t either. I do love You and I surrender my life in this moment to You once again. And I pray that the people reading this will have a good day. Amen.
“Each year one vicious habit discarded, in time might make the worst of us good.”
– Benjamin Franklin, Politician, Author, Scientist,
Then Jesus turned to the Jews who had claimed to believe in him. “If you stick with this, living out what I tell you, you are my disciples for sure. Then you will experience for yourselves the truth, and the truth will free you.”
– John 8:31-32, The Message