You Can't Change The World If You Won't Change, Too
There's a lot of things wrong in the world right now.
Not only are we confronted with the challenges of living through a global pandemic, but we are also faced with the realities of systemic racism, the sharp divisions between us over politics and social issues, along with the very real problems of homelessness and poverty, just to name a few.
It's easy to get overwhelmed by it all as we try to determine what great need deserves our energy and attention. And even when we do pick a problem to solve, most of us become stymied at the personal cost we'll endure by devoting ourselves to it.
Or we charge into it with our hair on fire, full of ideas, passion, vim, and vigor, but we burn out quickly or buckle under the pressure of the challenges we face, the criticism leveled at us by others, and a host of other obstacles.
This is why most of us resort to serially posting memes on our social media posts about the things that bother us and then calling it a day.
I think we have this "bass-akwards"... to coin a phrase that probably shouldn't be in a Daily Devo, but then again, I kind of wanted to get your attention.
Let me explain...
I was listening to The Stories We Tell Ourselves, an album from one of my favorite modern hard rock bands, Nothing More, and one of the songs (Do You Really Want It) gave me the idea for this devotion. Here's a sample of the lyrics:
Everybody wants to change the world
But one thing's clear
No one ever wants to change themselves
That's the way things are...
But we can change it all if you really want it
I'm going to say something that might be hard to hear...
Sometimes I feel like far too many of us are charging off to try to solve the problems of the world because it's easier to do battle with them than to face our own demons.
The problem is, when when we bury our hurts deep inside... when we live with constant shame or guilt... when we are filled with anger at ourselves and others... when we are unwilling to deal with our grief... when we refuse to take a hard look at ourselves in the mirror... The pain will find a way out somehow.
So when the pain makes its way out, it always has a way of sabotaging us, and whatever efforts we are making to do good, to change the world to solve the big problems. And so it goes.
I read this wonderful line from a poem by the 14th-century poet Rumi that speaks directly into this in a more pointed way:
Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.
It takes wisdom to learn that in order to change the world, we need to also undergo our own transformation. It takes stamina and imagination to solve big problems, both of which come more easily when we are healthy and whole.
Interestingly, when we work on changing ourselves, the change that we seek in the world becomes more attainable, and we will find that we're finally doing good for the right reasons.
Our efforts to do good in the world are no longer attempts to numb our pain, or to make us feel better about ourselves... our efforts are merely acts of shalom-bringing, which is as it should be.
Because God desires God's shalom/peace within us as well as in the world. God longs for us to discover our true selves and our truest calling which is always located where our deepest desires and the world's greatest needs intersect.
May it be so for you today, and may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.