It happens all the time.
We get all inspired by a moving story of change, or zealous about an injustice, and we leap into action.
We dive in, determined to make a difference.
To affect change.
And it’s one of the biggest mistakes we can make.
In the context of working with people in dire circumstances, a well-intentioned volunteer, out of compassion, may want to rescue people from their lifestyle of abuse, homelessness, or poverty.
And there’s nothing wrong with that.
It’s the subsequent jolt to reality that causes us to then wrestle with disillusionment.
The novelty fades into routine and we wonder if we're doing it wrong.
Because we soon realize, down there in the trenches, that the issues and problems people deal with are not only much more difficult and complex than we first thought, but also… we discover that change takes time.
Lots of time.
The more brokenness in a situation, the more time it seems change takes.
Soon the zeal for change and anticipation of big, obvious results fades into frustration.
At this point, we are put to decision. Will we leave with dashed hopes, or adjust course?
Want to change the world?
At the risk of sounding cliche, ... it literally starts with you.
Wherever you choose to serve and give of yourself with the hope of affecting change, consider adjusting your expectations.
Change is a fine goal, but to change others is not the starting place.
We must first aim - or at least be open - to change ourselves.
If you’ve ever heard reports from people returned from a short-term mission trip, you’ll have heard of how they went to serve, and were themselves blessed, served, or somehow changed.
This is what we must be open to – that our perceptions, assumptions, and even our character and behaviour- would first be changed.
In his book Developing the Leader Within You, Max Lucado writes,
“A middle eastern mystic said, “I was a revolutionary when I was young and all my prayer to God was: “Lord, give me the energy to change the world.”
As I approached middle age and realized that my life was half gone without my changing a single soul, I changed my prayer to: “Lord, give me the grace to change all those who come into contact with me, just my family and friends, and I shall be satisfied.”
Now that I am an old man and my days are numbered, I have begun to see how foolish I have been. My one prayer now is: “Lord, give me the grace to change myself.” If I had prayed for this right from the start, I would not have wasted my life.”
While it’s not necessarily a waste to have a misguided perspective, it does limit one’s effectiveness and certainly personal growth.
Want to change the world?
Howard Hendricks (Teaching to Change Lives) has this advice:
“The more you change, the more you become an instrument of change in the lives of others. If you want to become a change agent, you also must change.”
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