But First, Milk.
I am a very ordered person.
You may not see it. In fact, if you saw my office on some days, or my laptop desktop on all days, you may disagree. They seem to be beacons of chaos in an otherwise ordered environment. I try to keep a calendar, stay on a routine, and be on time (which sometimes means fifteen minutes late).
But I am an ordered person.
My system of order is just a bit different.
I like things to predictable; and although my routines are awkward and seemingly random, they are my routines and they are predictable Walk with me through the airport, sometime. Drive with me somewhere. Eat with me at Chipotle. I have the same routine every time.
And I enjoy keeping my routines, even when it comes to little things.
When I was younger my dad tried an experiment with me. Every night before bed I ate some cereal, and every night he poured it.
I liked this. Something I could expect, believe in, count on. Until one night.
I couldn’t eat it. It was wrong, the whole process was fundamentally flawed. You cannot put milk into a bowl before cereal…it just doesn’t work like that.
I didn’t eat that cereal and my dad had to pour me another bowl (the correct way).
Such a trite thing, yet, it was a major revelation of who I am and I think who we are as people in general.
We struggle with change, both external and internal.
We enjoy routines, habits, organized ways of behaving. When these things get out of line, we feel funky. Ever wake up late for work or class? The whole day feels off after that; we feel like we are perpetually behind, always trying to catch up; it can feel like an out of body experience. Why does everything change when we hit “snooze” too many times? Because our routine is disrupted.
Many people go through an adjustment period after they move to a new place; old networks of friends, locations, and habits all disappear and for a moment a person is almost in limbo – at once both without old routines, and without new ones.
Often times we think of this external change as the big one. How do we change the world and the horrible things in it? How do we change public policy to be pro-life and keep everyone safe? How do we change our economic situation so more people can be successful? And thinking about changing the world or the bad things in it is part of what we are called to do as Christians. But the problem we encounter is that our order is all messed up.
Its like putting the milk in first. Actually, its like trying to pour cereal without first setting out the bowl.
We cannot change anything – not the world, not the economy, not war or poverty – until we undergo an internal change. Our hearts have to be changed and aligned properly with what they are intended for before we can start to really know “change.”
I’m always struck by how God deals with the Israelite people during the time of the prophets – they are in exile and have lost everything. They are desperately looking for change. They want to get back to the home and be free again. Yet, God is going after a deeper kind of change. He is going after their hearts.
God constantly calls people back to him, and through their own internal conversion he allows for a bigger and greater change in their world; change cannot happen on the outside if it doesn’t happen within us first.
What is your change? How will your internal revolution take place? God calls the world to change; but he calls your heart to change toward Him first.
It can be a hard change because we are comfortable in our habits and routines, regardless of how bad or destructive they may be. We know that if we change we may be in a limbo for a bit not knowing what to do; at once without the old life but at the same time not quite accustomed to the new one. Yet, it is through that change that we can come to know who God is, and who God calls us to be. And that is the most important change of all, one that very few people like to talk about.
It’s hard to change the world, but it is impossible if we don’t first change ourselves. As Christians, we must be about that change toward God because we can’t change anything else around us until we are continually experiencing conversion and renewal.
Trying to do so…well, would leave us with a whole lot of ruined cereal, and a big mess of spilled milk.