Thursday, January 19, 2012

You Can't Force Spirituality

(Flamingos, in the San Diego Zoo)

Once Linda was talking on the phone with someone and I heard her tell them, "You can't force or demand spirituality." Now that is so true! When that takes place mostly bad things happen. People feel controlled, manipulated, pressured, instead of invited.

Jesus invites us to follow after him. He does not say, "Behold, I stand at the door and break it down and come in to your house."

At the root of forcing or demanding people to be in relationship with God is the illusion that we can change people. It can't be done. Or, if it appears that our guilt-manipulations have worked to "change" someone's heart we have before us a prisoner, captive and in chains. I know that when someone tries to change me I get this weird, angry feeling that makes me want to get away from them.

Parents take note: you do not control your child's heart. Spouses take note: you do not control your significant other's heart. So let it go. Many years ago God spoke to me and told me, "John, why are you trying so hard to change other people when you can't even change yourself?" (All this is different from setting boundaries and having household expectations. And the fact that we can't control others does not mean we have no right to speak to the truth in love to others.)

While I usually resent people who try to change me, I have been greatly influenced by a few people in my life. Influence is different than control. The heart of influence is getting before God, consistently throughout life, and crying out "Change my heart, O God!" Enter deeply into a life-process of personal transformation. The break-up that happens inside you will be used by God to influence others. You will see breakthrough around you. That's how it has happened with me. The real influencers in my life have been people who worked on their own souls before God and did not expend their lives trying to do the impossible thing of changing the hearts of others. As I have been with these (very few) people, God has used what he was doing in their lives to speak to me about my life. What a wonderful, grace-filled way for God to do this!