Recently Paul and I walked again around our favourite lake. It was a sunny Sunday afternoon and we bumped into very dear friends that we had gone to church with many years before.
They are older than us, around my parent’s age, and yet they hadn’t changed from how we remembered them. Their circumstances are different, of course, and they are now blessed with about a dozen grandchildren. But the essence of them hasn’t changed. They still have the gentle meekness, the same kindness in their words, the same contented outlook on life. He smiled as he told us how he continues to play the drums in church, more than thirty years since we first met them. They gushed about the lovely day and the bacon sandwiches they had treated themselves to and their upcoming special anniversary trip. They generously asked after all our children and we all said how good God is.
As we continued our walk I just couldn’t stop thinking about them. ‘I want to be like them someday’ I said to Paul and he agreed.
A week later, my husband was walking the dog at the same spot when he bumped into another old friend who was cycling past. Paul hadn’t spoken to him in probably 15 years. And, he hadn’t really changed much either. Still busy and hassled, talking too fast and always in a hurry. The refrain was familiar. Life is hectic and busy and stressful. He, by his own admission, is overextended because his lifestyle is expensive to maintain, in both money and time. He will have to work until he drops. He is sorry he can’t make time for church, but his days are already invested and there are none left. He misses it but not too much. And he cycled away.
As I think about those conversations, there is an uncomfortable truth that I am faced with. And it is this. The way I am living my life today is more than likely the way I will be living it in 20 years time. Because habits take only 40 days to form and so after 40 years they are pretty much carved in stone.
It is so easy to think in ‘somedays’. We tell ourselves that someday we will slow down and enjoy our family. Or someday we will give our relationship with Jesus the time it deserves. Someday we will serve others more. Someday we will go on that mission trip or study a book of the Bible. Someday we will step out in faith and do something risky for God or finally obey what we know He has been asking us to do.
But change is really hard.
And every day that goes by it gets harder.
Over decades we dig deep grooves in the soil of our lives that are nearly impossible to ignore. We have ways of doing things, natural tendencies and preferences. We also have bad habits and we have well-practised excuses for those bad habits. And we just keep going.
Nowhere in the Bible is this process better illustrated than Psalm 1.
‘How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.’ Psalm 1: 1-3 (NASB)
Here we see a beautiful tree, planted in a stunning location. It is healthy and vibrant and fruitful. It is prospering in every possible way. Each leaf is glossy and green, every root is strong and stable.
And the key to a life like this is in the previous verses.
Decisions. Habits. Priorities. Choices.
There is nothing ‘someday’ here. It is all about what I do right now. It is about where I spend my time and who I hang out with. It is about what gets my undivided attention and what doesn’t. It is about who I admire and what values I live my life by this week, today, now.
It is all about the place that God has in my life, whether He is just an add-on or whether He is the absolute centre of everything that I think and do.
And, the truth is that it will probably never be easier than today to make hard choices and decisions. It will never be easier to make God my first love and to make serving and following Him the centre of everything. There will probably never be fewer demands on my time or distractions in my mind.
There will never be an easier, better day to make changes than today.
As I sit at my desk, my mind full of worries and frets and to-do lists and diary appointments, I am wondering who I will be in 20 years. If you were to bump into me walking at the lake (with my fourth labrador!) who would you see?
My deepest desire is that all the good that Jesus has already done in my life will be magnified for His glory and that the good habits I have started, even if I am inconsistent, will have produced fruit in my life.
And I hope that I will have had the courage to keep changing. I hope that the things that hold me back now will have been overcome and that I will have continued to allow the character of Jesus to be fully formed in me.
And I hope that I will be full of fresh testimonies of the power and grace of God as He continuously moves me from the old into the new until the day I go to be with Him.