How do we facilitate what appears to be elusive change in our hearts and lives?  The game of golf recently provided an insightful perception.  The instructor I was watching said, “To make change you must feel change,” and then proceeded to provide repetitive drills that produce that feeling of the proper golf shot.

What changes need to be felt before they become instinctive habits?

Feel failure.

In both formal and informal counseling, I have observed that only people who are willing to push through initial and even persistent failures really change.  It is ultimately a desperate, emotionally charged hunger to overcome failures at any cost that produces concrete change.  A person cannot reach this tipping point without every nerve-ending they own being painfully familiar with failure.  The key is not to avoid failure but to allow the Holy Spirit to entrench lasting progress through these very emotions.  To a person, those who have made epic improvement have on the tip of their tongue what “I will never go back to thinking, doing, or being.”  Avoidance is the result of awareness.

Feel success.

Too often instead of changing we commiserate; in other words, we feel but only in a dark, unproductive fashion.  One of the key emotions to interject early and frequently in the process of change is hope.  Going back to the golf analogy for a moment, drills provide repetitive motions in controlled environment that will ultimately become second-nature out on the real tree-turf-sand-water course.  It is absolutely essential to seek out a structural context in which you can feel physically and spiritually how the desired change will fill your life.  Now it will have handles.  Now there is real, touch-it-with-your-finger improvement within reach.  Too often we are more adept at handling failure than we are success.  Flippant pride is your worst enemy.  Careful stewardship is your ally.  You and I must know what to repeat.  A isolated, minuscule success can become a nuclear series of progressive development!  Celebrate.

Feel maintenance.

The last arena of change that must be “felt” is the day-to-day.  In the dieting world this is called “keeping it off.”  If the drills of change do not provide an engaging, long-term maintenance mode, you will eventually revert back to not only the old habits but also the old, more-flawed you.  While we are human beings, our identity is the largely the result of our doings.  We must not only become uncomfortable with failure and comfortable with success but also committed to maintaining change.  These means daily schedules, tasks, limits, accountability, planning, and tweaking…you definitely need tweaking.  The last time I checked, you can’t “coast” uphill.  Maintenance keeps things from losing a healthy balance and steady tension.  For change to thrive requires an emotional connection and familiarity with its mundane disciplines.

I don’t know if there is a brighter future for your golf game than mine, but I do know that change is absolutely God’s will for your life!  The Apostle Paul includes you, “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”   Where does the Spirit reside in all us?  Our mind?  Our hand?  Our mouth?  No.  Period.  He dwells in our heart-this is what engages not just physical feeling but spiritual ones!  Without these three feelings of change, your divinely revealed dissatisfaction with the status quo will never be conquered.  May I encourage you to seek out a Spirit-filled counselor, pastor, or friend who can help.  Move beyond the “heady” facts.  Get to the non-negotiable “hearty” feelings.

Which of these three emotional connections has most contributed to your growth?  Why?