Road Most Traveled

“If you keep doing the same things you’ve always done, you will keep getting the same results you’ve always gotten.”

How many times have you heard that phrase? Have you ever applied it to your life? Honestly, before today I didn’t think it much mattered to me. That may be because the first time I heard that concept taught, I was working in drug and alcohol rehab as a house monitor. I heard that maxim in the context of a struggle that I’d never had, so I didn’t readily apply it to myself.

So I went about my hunky-dory life. Yet even though I didn’t have the massive problems of addiction and criminal behavior, I found myself struggling with some things. I asked God to change those things, to walk me past their influences so I could heal and reach the life I wanted to have. The life I believe God wants me to have. Many times and for many things, God has done just that. With love and patience, He has delivered me from a lot of hurt, trauma, and pain. But there are a few walls I just can’t seem to get past.

I’ve been attacking those strongholds with prayer and faith and the Word, yet I continue to find myself in a bruised heap at the bottom of the battlements. What the heck? How am I not getting this right? I’m praying, I’m seeking, I’m doing everything the Bible and the preacher tells me to. So why am I always failing?

Return the cliche. There is something in my life that I’m doing wrong, and I keep doing it wrong, ergo I keep not accomplishing the task. Same action, same result.

“But I’m changing my approach! I’ve learned all kinds of new tools and ways of stepping into the authority of Christ and standing on His promises!”

Since I’m still standing in the shade of this tower, there’s a different change than a choice of weapons that I need to make. If a bigger hammer isn’t doing the job, then I need to look at what else I’m doing. Or not doing.

How have I been coming at this problem? Well, I’ve done plenty of recon so I understand what the issue is. I’ve examined my choices of offense and discussed strategy with others. Then I went in with all guns blazing. After all, I can’t be lazy and expect God to do my work for me; I have to take ownership of my life and the messes that I’ve created.

So why am I not able to knock this thing down? I’ve humbled myself before God, sought His will, and done things by the Book. Why isn’t it working?

I wrote all those paragraphs to simulate just how long it took me to come to this realization. I applied my very fine mind to these problems, but I overlooked that one crucial element. Geez, it’s like a cheap novel or something; that “one thing” the main character always misses. Ok, I’ll stop dragging it out and tell you.

The “same thing” that wasn’t working for me was not my approach to the issue. It is my approach to God Himself. You see, in many cases, the symptoms are what we want to alleviate and get rid of, but in order to get them gone, we have to get to the root cause. But the symptoms are so overwhelming that digging deeper onto the misery falls really low on the to-do list. If my tooth feels like it’s under a missile barrage, the last thing I want is major surgery to remove it. What I want is for the pain to stop, and the suggestion of cutting into my jaw bone does not process as “cessation of agony.”

There are things that I’ve been struggling with for years. You have your own garden of woes, I am sure. I’ve put in a lot of hours to weed out these issues, but so many of them continue to best me. And what I’ve only just realized is that I’ve been treating symptoms and completely missing the roots.

God and I have been together most of my life. In fact, this fall will mark 25 years for us. Our silver anniversary! Have you ever noticed that the longer you hang around someone, the more familiar they get? In fact, I’ll bet that everyone of you has the tendency to take people for granted. It’s like they become part of your landscape, like the plant in the corner of the room. None of us ever intended to slight or insult the other, but it happened.

One of the reasons that earthquakes and tornadoes are so awful is because we don’t expect them. The world is not supposed to act that way. When the landscape suddenly rearranges itself, it creates problems for us. When we relegate people (or God) to part of the landscape and expect them to act according to established patterns, any time they act differently, it creates a problem for us. If you’re anything like me, you don’t always respond well to people acting outside your expectations of them.

Ok, I almost never respond well to people acting according to their own natures and not the neat little roles I assigned to them. And I certainly have not responded well to God not acting the way I’ve come to think He ought to act. How many times have I railed against the people who put God in a box? Here’s another saying: any time you point a finger at someone else, there are at least three pointing back at yourself.

The underlying cause of, the foundation on which my present struggles are built, is this expectation of God that I’ve been carrying around. I’m in effect trying to control the relationship and even God by having this mindset. Because I won’t accept any action of His that doesn’t fit my arrogant assumptions about Him, I can’t get the pain to stop.

My pain does not come from the circumstance. My suffering is not because of other people. The problem is that I’m not letting God be Himself. What does God say about Himself that particularly applies here? “His mercies are new every morning” comes to mind. God is creative and original; there is no reason for me to be bored in our relationship. If I’m bored, it’s not because God is boring; a quick glance at Scripture will show you that!

Because God is real, living, and active, He is not static. There are parts of Him that I don’t know about yet, that I haven’t had time to learn. And He wants to show me those parts of His personality; He wants for me to get to know Him better. But if I’ve decided that I’ve got God figured out, then I can’t learn anything new about Him. And if I’m not able to learn, I’m not able to get past these stupid walls. It’s like playing a video game and you cannot figure out what quest or item will get you past this retarded level. It’s usually hiding in plain sight.

So, a summary for this ramble. If I always think about God the same way, if I require Him by my expectations to act according to certain patterns, I am always going to get the same results in my relationship with Him. I will always struggle with certain issues because those issues require a different castle key to unlock than the ones I’ve been carrying around for the past six levels.

When I take a step back and allow God to be Himself, to act how He wants to, I’m going to get some very different results. Things that have frustrated me for so long will suddenly look nothing like they did, and that new perspective will enable me to find the way through, around, over, under, or in some way beyond that which has chained me down for so long.

God isn’t the dungeon master. He’s the King of the castle.

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