Over a year ago, I witnessed a significant and delightful change in my nearest and dearest, which I’d like to tell you about.
Pete and I have a grandson called Leo, who is now 10 years old. At the start of the lockdown restrictions, when we knew we couldn’t see our grandchildren regularly, Leo and Pete began daily story sessions over the phone. Pete would read a chapter of a novel to him. It became an enjoyable part of the new daily routine for them both and they loved their daily chat too. They are still enjoying this almost daily activity 15 months later; Pete has read more than 30 children’s novels to Leo. The amazing thing about this is the change. As a youngster Pete never read more than a handful of books and in adult life too he found he was so disengaged by the printed word that it was a sure way to send him to sleep. Books were not for him.
For me witnessing this small transformation has been a powerful lesson about how we can bring about change in ourselves in unexpected ways, often in service to others.
When all our lives changed fundamentally last year in March, people took to writing helpful stuff about how to cope with the changes happening all around us.
There were many practical pieces of advice and new Government rules about what we could and couldn’t do and about changes we could and should make. So we learned how to make and wear our own face masks, we learned how to take exercise in a more limited environment, we learned special deep cleaning techniques, we learned to share our own good fortune with others in new ways, as Pete and Leo did.
The Bible is full of remarkable characters who are faced with fundamental change and take it on in good faith. Change brings pain as well as blessings. Think of Abraham, who was challenged by God to completely change his life by moving to an unknown foreign land – and the blessings of generations which ensued (Genesis 12:1-3).
Or think of Mary, who became the mother of Jesus. She was told to take on shocking changes when she was a young woman, engaged to be married to Joseph – the pain of social disgrace but then unimaginable blessings came to her through her trust in the Lord.
Jesus challenged people to change. Here’s just one example – the encounter with the rich young man who asked Jesus what he should do to gain eternal life. He thought he had it sorted but Jesus asked him to change his value system, to take on the true Christian core values (Matthew 19:16 onwards). He couldn’t do it. This man will always be remembered as the one who turned away from Jesus – because he wouldn’t change.
It may be like that in our Christian experience too. We may be struggling with changes right now.
Hopefully we are able to put our hands in Jesus’ outstretched hand and embrace the changes which will make us more secure in following Him. I like the way it is expressed in The Message Bible in Romans 12:1 and 2:
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.