If I am honest I have always desired to make my mark in the world. I guess in some ways we are all trying to achieve something to stand out, to create a legacy, change the world in some way. In fact in our modern age a whole industry of self-help schemes and coaching for all sorts of things has developed. For the individual and for the business, there is this massive desire for us to get better at what we do. As someone who is a trained life coach, I get all that. However I used this quote as a teacher and it seems to suggest something slightly different.
“When I was a young man I wanted to change the world. I found it difficult to change the world, so I tried to change the nation. When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn’t change my town and now as an older man I tried to change my family. Unfortunately by this time they did not want to be changed.
Now as an older man, I realise that the only thing that I can change is myself, and I suddenly realise that if long ago… I had changed myself; I would have made an impact on my family. My family and I would have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I would indeed have changed the world.”- Unknown 11th Century Monk
This may seem whimsical and little farfetched but there is an element of truth in it, because as the 12 Step programmes attest to you can’t change people, places and things, the only thing that you can change is you. I believe that when we don’t get that, God will begin to take us on a path when, like our friend the monk, we find that we have the power of change and that is if we can grasp it. That all significant long-lasting change must begin with ourselves. That is all that is realistically within our power to change. However should we grasp that simple concept we become eminently powerful.
Here is a recent example, my friend Gary was sharing with us how he was struggling with his significance. God through a series of moves and changes had moved him from being a highly successful men’s ministry leader in an urban setting to a church in a smaller city that didn’t believe in men’s ministry and then on to a small town that didn’t have a church at all. BUT now he is highly influential in this small town despite the fact everyone knows about his faith. The major point was in every situation he tried to do something for God and change took place. You see God’s ways are not our ways and my friend needed to realise that he had a gift and calling in pastoral-care. He now has a highly significant and effective ministry, but not how he initially understood significance.
We need to go back to the one who designed and created us to understand where we are most effective, where we can bring change. Then allow HIM through the Holy Spirit, prayer, others and the Bible to connect us with the truth of the call of God on our lives. That way change can safely and effectively happen.
We may not change “the world” but we can certainly change “our world” to the glory of God if we will simply acknowledge significant change must begin with us.