Friday, January 17, 2014

True Change is Slow Change

I heard this phrase on a podcast a while back and, ever since then, I’ve thought about the words:

True change is slow change.

So often, I’ve given in to discouragement on this road to mental health recovery.  I wish I was already better.  I wish I didn’t have to try so hard anymore.  I wish I could just be “normal”.  Day to day, I don’t see much progress.  So I get to thinking that I am not making any progress at all.

That is why the phrase struck me so profoundly.  In order to make long-term, effective changes, I have to take my time.

Sometimes, I get the words “urgent” and “haste” mixed up.  I think I am acting on a sense of urgency but, in reality, I’m only acting in hastily.  To me, the end always seems more important than the journey.  So why not just get there, right?  The down side to acting is haste is not always making the best decisions – or the most effective decisions.

In order to truly change things for the better, the supernatural virtues of patience and hope are needed.

Hope is necessary to keep going, to not give up when times get tough or when discouragement sets in.  I say supernatural, because it goes against human nature.  We are all human and we are all failures.  And if we believe that it’s hopeless and we can never change, than failures we will stay.  On the other hand, if we have hope, others may think we are foolish, idealistic, or unrealistic.  So despite our own doubts and the criticism of others, we must be hopeful nonetheless – because it is the only way.

Patience is also absolutely necessary.  This is the virtue that keeps urgency in check and does not turn into haste.  Patience leads to surrender.  Not my will but Thy will.  Impatience only leads to controlling things and doing things the way you want them done…not waiting for God’s timing.

It is no easy task to be patient.  In all honesty, patience hurts.  It’s not easy or fun – it’s hard work and requires a lot of suffering.  It is very difficult to wait for God’s will.

Reflecting on this reality causes me to think of two people: the Blessed Virgin Mother and Jesus.  Mother Mary did not know all the details of what to do when she spoke her Fiat, her “yes”.  She did not get infused with Divine Wisdom or have revealed to her everything that would come to pass.  No, she simply said “yes” and waited patiently for God’s will to be made known to her in the proper time.

When I think of patience, I also think of the early life of Jesus.  People had been waiting a long time for the Messiah to come.  Yet, after Jesus was born, He did not get started right away on His work of Salvation.  Jesus did not start his public ministry until He was 30 years old.  He waited for God’s timing.  Talk about not being hasty!

And it’s not like Jesus spent those 30 years twiddling his thumbs.  In those years, he sanctified work, the family, and personal relationships.  It was God’s will that those things were done in addition to saving all of our souls by His cross and resurrection.

So, considering all these things, in order to create true and lasting change in my life, I must have hope and patience.

I think, sometimes, people (myself included) worry that if they don’t have haste, then they will fall into laziness, or use patience to justify putting off what they need to do.  I don’t doubt that this happens, but I think it is more uncommon in the searching soul who is honestly seeking virtue and God’s will.

Practically speaking, it is good to be patience and pray about big decisions for several days – or longer if no peace comes from it.  Peace is the surest sign of God’s will.

If I work at trying to listen to God’s will and not trying to force my own will all the time, then I will learn to hear God’s voice.  Only after I get more in tune with His voice can I make better decisions and act with urgency.

Patience is not laziness, it is having confidence that God is at work.  God is God, and He has a far better plan than I can ever imagine.  So going forward, I will try to have more confidence that God is in control and express this faith by having more patience and hope.

True change is slow change.

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