You can’t change the world, but you can change yours...
I wish that’s what we preached more often… Everyone is so busy trying to change the lives of others.
A whole world focused ... outwardly. And not just 7 billion people told to go change one another — but that they can change one another, and they should.
But here’s 3 problems with all that…
By saying “you can and should and shall go change the world,” we’re declaring that the world, namely: its people, need to be changed. We’re announcing this to the youngsters of this world, “Welcome! This place is bad and broken. The world is wrong. Go fix it!”
When we teach this over and over to people from a very young age, we’re establishing a worldview. We’re saying, without saying, that people primarily are broken. That the current and original state of person-hood is 'less than', 'busted', 'lost' and 'in need of'… YOU. They are all lost, and YOU, the savior, have the answer.
We set them against that world, rather than for it.
And this is done with best of intentions. It turns, what could be 'students', into 'Pharisees', from a very young age. And they don’t intend to become assholes, but when you are told and trained that you have the answer and others don’t, it becomes very hard to receive answers from those around you.
So what about "Jimmy", who has been trained in this story also? What happens when he interacts with you? Who does the changing? He’s got what you need and you’ve got what he needs and; a battle ensues over who is right.
Like it or not, the message that teaches everyone to go and fix and change everyone only sets us all up for failure, division, hypocrisy, arrogance and… lack of teachability.
So our mantra to create change ends up doing the exact opposite. Instead of making students, it makes unapproachable a-holes - preachers who know only their own truth, instead of one another’s.
Trying to change someone is called control, and it is one of the number one things divorce and relationship counselors try to teach couples: a person, a soul, cannot legally, mentally, physically, own or control another person. We understand this intuitively, so we become master manipulators instead.
Trying to change someone is like trying to swim for someone else. If you’re holding them up they’re not swimming. They may think they are, but as soon as they don’t swim, you’re both sinking. You cannot make someone swim. You can hold their hand and help, the whole time yelling “you can do it!” But, to swim, they must swim themselves.
... but we can never, ever, change someone. For change ... true change, comes from within.
Three: Wrong target & missed beauty
Couples are trying to change each other.
Parents are trying to change their kids.
Neighbors are trying to fix their neighbors.
Bosses trying to fix their employees.
Pastors trying to save their congregates.
Governments trying to change the people.
People trying to change their government.
“We go land and sea creating converts; making them twice the sons of hell that we are.” (Matthew 23:15)
....convincing other people that our reality, our story, this place, its people - is not as good as it really is.
This is why we can “gain the world and lose our soul.”
I wish this is what was taught,
I wish this is what I heard as kid:
“Boy, the world is a beautiful place. It’s big and scary and colorful and challenging and amazing and mysterious. There’s so much to learn. Continents and molecules and languages and cultures and philosophies and sciences and animals and thousands of ice cream flavors.
This place has been around for thousands of years. It holds wisdom and tradition and secrets and stories about the human experience. Go. Receive it. Stretch your arms wide and take it all in. Be not afraid. Learn. Grow. Ask. Apply. Fall down and get back up.
This place is a gift. Receive it. People are the greatest of treasures. You, and all the people you come across, are here for a reason. A beautiful reason. And you’re one of those beautiful reasons. You’re better than no one, and no one is better than you. You all have a part to play. You’re all welcome. You’re all family. You’re all little lights that flicker like the stars. Candles that light the world. They need your flame, but oh dear, you need theirs. Guard that delicate balance of giving and receiving.
You may see problems and experience pains, but that is part of having a world set free. The world is messy and dark and scary at times, but that doesn’t mean it is broke. It means it is alive. It doesn’t need to be changed, only received and loved and cared for by each individual playing their own part. Play your part. When we all do that, the world shall thrive.
So go, be open and receive it all. And just love the whole thing.”
When we don't receive the above message, we can establish a worldview; a lens that sees everything as primarily broken and in need of work. We can miss the beauty and richness.
In our attempts to give, we forget to receive, and neglect the very essence of life itself — gift.
Preaching the gospel was a gift to you, not to them. It was designed to open you up and get you outside the small world of your customs, attitudes, judgements, ideas and stereotypes. The gospel, changes your own heart, before it changes anyone else.
It is understood that God manifested himself (or sent His son) because of his love for the world. You love what you create, what you invest in and spend time in. What you bleed and sweat for. Of course he loved the world, because he spent so much time, care and energy involved in bringing it forth. He fell in love with it.
And so shall it be with us, with our children.
That we are commanded to go forth and get involved. To sweat, to bleed, to risk, to experience, to dance, to drink, to try to love, to work … dive head first. Get messy with it and fall in love with life. Let life amaze you.
Before anything, just receive the gift of life.
We just take it in and receive. We put our hands in the soil, on a friends shoulders. We hold the suns gaze, and a stranger's, for a few minutes longer - pondering the beauty so casually neglected.
We say a small apology to life:
“I’m sorry I went out, guns blazing, trying to change you. I’m sorry I’ve missed the good and perfect gift which is: ‘Christ in all things’ and forsaken the divine in every tree, flower, face and place I’ve been. I shall slow down and accept you. I’m sorry for battling you and converting you before even asking your name. I’ll start there from now on. I’ll put my agenda to the side and become a student, a learner, a receiver, an embracer and a lover. Before I decide the gift to give, I shall take you in and receive the gift you already are. Perhaps then I’ll surprise myself with how little needs be done, and how much just needs be observed, witnessed, and experienced.”
We cannot change the world, but we can change our own. And as each one puts on this mode, this lens…
... perhaps, maybe, possibly, we’d soften, flourish, thrive, blend and dance together in one giant:
And find ourselves … in paradise.
Ronnie is an artist who's ideas have launched businesses, apps, music albums, and as of late, cartoons. Visit his website here. He thinks outside the box but don't tell him that, he doesn't believe in boxes, unless you're in a movie cinema. Ronnie lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, U.S.A with his wife Anna and their three boys Jack, Griffin and Maverick.
See previous articles by Ronnie Herrema