Monday, May 7, 2012

Minor Adjustment? Can't I Just burn some stuff in a bonfire?

I went swimming today. I swim for exercise. I spent so much of my life in water from age 5 until 18 that now, nearly 20 years later, it still feels almost more natural to move in water than on land. I still retain habits and forms that were established when I was 14 or 15 years old.

I'm no terrific swimmer but I do like to try and improve. So today I realized that doing freestyle/forward crawl my left arm is far more efficient than my right. This is because I breathe on my right side and so my right arm doesn't catch or pull as deeply. So I worked on tweaking my right arm's catch and pull.

Making this minor correction took tremendous effort, mostly mindfulness. Decades of habit continuously threatened the slight adjustment. And will. For a long, long time.

Learning to swim wasn't nearly as hard as making this minor adjustment seems to be. It's not going to make me super fast or a winner. But it will probably make me a slightly better and certainly will make my stroke more efficient, ergo more energy to cycle and swim if it's triathlon time.

Minor adjustments are in many ways as difficult than major overhauls.

In his book Viral Len Sweet speaks about the power of story to transform. He says,

For some people, change is life. For some people, change is death. For all people, change is difficult. And for all people, change is mandatory. Our real problem has less to do with learning new behaviors than letting go of old ones.

And he he quotes Dylan, "He not busy being born is busy dying."

Change is hard. But we need to change.

We need to rewrite the scripts that keep us from being busy being born.

Just this morning I read Paul's lament in Romans 7 that he doesn't do what he wants to do but does the very thing he hates, culminating in this cry: "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin" (Romans 7.24-25 ESV).

There a war on between spirit and flesh, between sedentariness and movement, between the old stroke and the new stroke. The minor adjustments are hard. It would be easier to just chuck something entirely. Quit swimming and take up badminton. Burn piles of "bad" stuff instead of having to discern and learn and grow. 

Change is hard, change is slow, change is worth it. And in Christ we are not alone. We have the power of the Holy Spirit, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. That power can, as Sweet says, through the power of story and metaphor, "re-format" our brains, lives, behaviors.

Now if I can only remember that adjustment when I get back to the pool next time...