I’m tired of click bait. I get it of course. We want people to visit our sites and our blogs and if we simply offer them 5 easy steps to achieve their dreams or suggest we have video footage of the most amazing goal we’ve ever seen, it’s hard to resist.
But rarely do any of these things live up to the hype that they promise. (Scoring from before the half way line into an open net is not that difficult).
Those 5 easy steps you’ve been given are actually extremely difficult. Simple maybe, but extremely difficult. So after all that, I want to share the one piece of advice I heard this year that I’ve been thinking about ever since I heard it. I truly believe it could be life changing but remember, simple does not mean easy.
Now before I get to that one piece of advice, based on my previous paragraphs, I want to be completely forthright. This won’t be new to many of you. You’re going to be extremely disappointed actually. This is not going to turn your world upside down.
So I heard this piece of advice in a sermon given by Pete Rollins, a Philosopher from Northern Ireland but who lives in LA. He was speaking at Mars Hill in Grand Rapids, Michigan and he said this right at the end.
“You don’t need to change, none of you need to change”
That’s it. Thank you and goodnight.
So, ok. There’s a lot more to this but actually, no there isn’t. You don’t need to change. You’re fine as you are. Stop trying to change anything. Stop trying to iron out the crinkles. They’re not part of you, they are you. It’s all going to be ok.
But in the words of Father Fitzgerald, the priest with the most monotonous voice in the world, “What’s the catch”?
Well there isn’t one. At least there shouldn’t be one.
I’ve had enough experience being part of the Christian world and church to know that despite our message of acceptance and unconditional love we spend a lot of time and resources on showing people how to change. Heck, my job last year was leading groups full of men who desired to change.
But somehow I believe we’ve lost the true message that we don’t need to change.
What if we stopped there. “You don’t need to change”. Not, “You don’t need to change….but…”. Just.
change. (Damn it Rob Bell)
There is a reason obviously so many of us feel the need to change. Perhaps it’s because we’re stuck in an addiction of behaviors that are slowly ripping our soul apart. Or we think we need to look sexier, sound smarter or work out more.
But there is a huge difference between needing to change and wanting to change.
Take addiction for example. In fact, take a Christian who is addicted. It doesn’t matter what to. Does that person feel the need to change because they believe that somehow their addiction is jeopardizing their salvation or love? If that’s the case, which I believe for so many of us it is when we really start to be honest, then they don’t need to stop looking at porn, or overeating or drinking.
Remember? Unconditional love. There is no “but” to unconditional love. It’s either unconditional or it’s not. And we all know that. We all claim to believe in the inability to earn God’s love.
So why do we try?
Before we get there, try this for one day. Every time you think about that thing about yourself which you want to quit or change, tell yourself that you don’t have to. You can go crazy and do it all day if you want.
Look at porn. Overeat. Don’t workout. Don’t do your taxes.
Also, ask yourself why you want to change. Here are some answers which are not acceptable, if you truly believe in unconditional love like you say you do. God will be angry at me. Nope. God will be disappointed at me. Nope again. God will be frustrated….You get the idea.
The reason that none of those answers are helpful is because underneath them all is a belief that God needs us to change. But why would He? What effect would it have on God if we changed? Does He suddenly love us more if we change? Well if that’s true, then we don’t believe in unconditional love. Which is fine. But don’t pretend that unconditional love is any real force in your life if any of those beliefs about God are true for you.
If we spend our lives constantly trying to please a God who we claim loves us unconditionally we’ll end up going a little crazy. How will we know if we’ve ever achieved enough? What if we change that one massive thing that’s weighing on our shoulders but start doing something else that’s not quite as “bad?”
Of course change is an important and natural part of life. Change can be good. If I’m using a behavior that is causing me massive amounts of shame then that behavior is not healthy. But a more pertinent question, than how do I stop or start doing something is, Why do I feel shame?
Shame arises out of a deep belief that we are a bad person. A bad person because we’ve set ourselves up and consequently failed to live to a standard we were never supposed to achieve.
This is the question that God asked Adam and Eve. Who told you you were supposed to feel shame?
When I took the decision to stop viewing porn I set myself up for failure. Because I was doing it out of a false belief that God needed me to change. That was the operational belief in my life and so every decision, moment, success or failure had it’s value based solely on how it had lived up to that belief.
I believed God loved me more when I abstained from porn. I believed He wanted me to burn in Hell if I didn’t.
The problem is that for us mere humans, this all plays out subtly in our subconscious. I don’t really think God wants to send me to Hell but I do. I don’t really think that if I view porn today I’m a horrible person, but I do. I don’t really believe that God’s love is conditional on my obedience but I do.
This is why, when my friend Seth meets with guys who are dealing with addiction he tells them to go all out. Have at it.
When I took the decision to stop viewing porn because it was damaging my life and causing me to disconnect and feel like a shell of a human, things changed.
I was changing because the alternative was just so horrible, not because I needed to meet God’s standards. I felt Grace properly for the first time in my life.
Pete Rollins in a recent episode of The Deconstructionists podcast explained Grace wonderfully. Allow me to butcher it for you. (Or you should probably just listen to it yourself and save me any embarrassment)
We tell ourselves there is something we need to change. Another more subconscious part of us protests against that voice by pushing against the change. How Grace works then is to come in and dismantle that first voice telling us we need to change by reminding us that we don’t. With that, the protest voice inside us also falls away allowing us to truly change.
Not because we need to but because we’re free from having to.
I know this doesn’t make sense. It really doesn’t. Which is perfect for us because we need it to not make sense. Because for so long we’ve heard the messages of Grace from our pulpits but we’ve never truly experienced it. Which is why a daily routine of spiritual practice is so important for everyone.
If you don’t feel comfortable with the idea of God, think of it as a Higher force. Something that desires us to move forward and live in peace with ourselves and others.
I would go as far as suggesting that for you right now, you don’t really believe in Grace. Not in a real way. I say that, knowing for me and countless others I’ve worked with, Grace was something we understood but never felt.
None of this matters unless we go through a new experience of course. “Understanding” this won’t change anything for you. You’ve understood it for your whole life, I’m guessing.
But now is the time to feel it.