Speaking of driving… You know those video games where you have to drive a car or steer some sort of random wheeled object along a narrow, winding, hazard-filled course? I’m terrible at them. While some people (i.e. my husband and children) hit every speed-boost, avoid every obstacle, and make every turn with ease, I miss every boost, hit every obstacle, and crash on every corner!
Because I’m a chronic over-corrector.
Though some seasoned video-game-drivers have the patience and skill to navigate a course, I’m an impatient panic-er! I see myself headed toward a wall, so I steer left as hard as I can. Which immediately sends me headlong into the wall on the left. And when I see that coming, I jerk the controls back to the right and you know what happens next – CRASH!
Us over-correctors know the struggle applies not only to video games, but to the rest of life as well.
When I see a flaw in my self, I want to fix it. I’m aware of the wall I’m about to run into and, in my attempt to avoid the crash, I send myself headlong in the other direction. It seems so clear in the moment: “This is what I need to do and I’m going to do it!” But then I try and no matter how hard I try to steer that wheel in the right direction, I can’t seem to control myself and I end up flailing toward some ticking-time-bomb hazard and blowing up anyway.
It’s hard to rest when there’s so much work to be done on me. Following Jesus means transformation, and even though I’m not who I once was, I’m still not the follower I’d like to be. And it’s not just about me – all the people I interact with would certainly benefit from my transformation as well!
In his letter to the Romans, Paul follows up his presentation of the gospel message with a practical application of our salvation:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Romans 12:1-2a)
Paul goes on to talk about the transformed life as it works itself out in our relationships, summing it up with these words in chapter 15:
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:5-6)
In both of these passages, the important thing to note are the verbs that indicate how the change in us happens. Notice that we are to “be transformed,” not “to transform” and that it is God who “gives” us the attitude of mind that Christ Jesus had, not ourselves. It’s also important to note the “so that” which is the motivation behind His work.
There are many “pattern[s] of this world” we are tempted to conform to, but one of the most dangerous is the self-help model. Motivational quotes, books, and articles promise a “better” you if you’ll just take these three easy steps. The “you” you want to be is within your reach! Put in the work and that “self” you’ve always desired will be yours.
The problem is that nothing in the self-help model matches up with Romans 12:1-2 or 15:5-6. Because there’s nothing in there about a “better” me or three easy steps. I don’t see the “me” I want to be listed in there as a goal. And the only “work” mentioned is a word that implies the opposite of “self”-help.
Offering my body as a sacrifice means just that – sacrifice. The “me” I want to be is being laid on the altar along with “my” desire to change “me” so I can be “better”. Offering something means releasing ownership of it and offering me means giving up my attempts to perfect “me”.
Self-help leads to extremes because our “selves” are hard to control. But when I offer myself, I rest. It’s not that effort is not required, it’s that the focus of my effort is no longer on changing myself. Rather, my effort is directed in the offering of myself, on a moment by moment basis, submitting to God so that His glory might be displayed in me.
I’ve been convicted as I write this that even my most noble efforts at change are still “self” focused. Because even if my goal is to have a “better” marriage or be a “better” parent, it’s still rooted in my own fulfillment! I need to change that! 😉
I’m so glad God is not in a hurry to make me the “me” I want to be and that even in my overcorrecting He’s still working. The “me” He wants me to be is His work in progress and He’s got all the patience and skill needed to make it happen!