My week in August on a Montana trout stream, with only my fly rod and my bible – and without television, phone, or internet – was a total emersion in renewal. But we can’t live from break-to-break and expect to be effective.
Rather, we must create an ongoing culture of renewal that is (1) dramatic, (2) deliberate, and (3) discerning.
1. Learning from the dramatic moments triggers renewal.
New Year’s resolutions don’t cause many people to eat right and exercise long term, but a heart-attack scare will do it almost every time.
Any life-pattern adjustment that moves far beyond teeth-gritting determination is usually born out of a dramatic moment.
Those dramatic moments are more often negative than positive, but we can have assurance in the sovereignty of God that He is using the hard times to teach and prepare us for what is yet to come. When life comes against us, we need to be looking to where God wants to push us rather than only pushing back.
Painful experiences require choosing between rejection or renewal.
Sometimes the trigger comes into our life because the Lord is testing and preparing us for something. Other times the stress comes because we’ve made bad choices and there are consequences to our actions.
Ideally, renewal is ignited because of the opportunities provided by insightful moments of reflection or dialog with other Christians we trust to give Godly advise.
Oftentimes the gigantic shifts in our lives, ministries, and society begin with a small moment of drama. Those who are renewed look for the unsettledness that can be the seedbed of change.
But no matter the source, God will use the dramatic moments to launch us into renewal if we are willing.
2. Deliberate action energizes renewal.
While the dramatic moments of opportunity or disappointment may trigger renewal, the real work is carried out in careful day-to-day follow-through.
Without ongoing implementation, our desire for renewal is fairly empty.
Renewal is not a one-time event. Like the life of holiness, renewal begins with a commitment, but then we must deepen, grow, and recommit ourselves continually to God’s calling. And in that process of sanctification, we can live and work confidently. Living in the center of God’s will is not a destination as much as it is the journey.
If we are going to be people who are renewed, sometimes it is best to “just do something,” even if it is not the ultimate change that needs to be made.
To get renewal moving, you could …
- Take a day to see your calling in life from a bird’s-eye view rather than focus only on the day-to-day of your responsibilities.
- Put the same level of energy into loving your kids and your spouse that you put into your job.
- Get back into a routine of daily devotions.
- Make a list of ways you can work smarter.
- Take the time to fix something you’ll never get credit for doing.
- Read something new in your field (or if you want to really be bold) outside your field of expertise.
Some action, even if it doesn’t focus on the area needing attention, can trigger renewal in other arenas. While a well-developed plan of renewal would seem admirable, I’ve found that just keeping the ball rolling is sometimes the key to grooving a path for change.
3. Discerning relationships accelerates renewal.
To develop a culture of renewal, you must become comfortable living with the ambiguous balance of growth and pruning in your working relationships.
Change in people will come with a grind of starts and stops, ups and downs, surprises and embarrassments.
Renewal is never easy. It is complex and messy, and only in hindsight is it usually attractive and admired. It is not the comfortable route for us or for those we are helping to renew.
But our calling demands a commitment to the disruptive work of renewal if we are to utilize fully the gifts of the people God has brought to us.
It would be orderly for us to shape around us “perfect employees” or the “perfect family” who fit our needs. But we will have missed our calling of loving in with the grace of Jesus, if we run from the disruptions necessary to allow every employee, friend, and family member the opportunity to grow and be pruned to become all God intends.
Renewal will not be an efficient straight line of progress. But renewal is a solid line of God’s strength and God’s outcome.