I don’t like the current political situation.
As a Christian, I often feel that the things I stand for are openly mocked or completely ignored. That people are prejudiced against me not because of my skin color but because of my religion. And that the things I value are ignored by the political system that’s in place.
Now, I live in Canada and that means that Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party is in power (at least, at the time of this writing).
This may lead you to believe that I’m against him and I’m upset because the party I want isn’t leading the country. And, to be perfectly honest, there are things he’s done that I don’t agree with. That said, when the Conservatives were in power they did things I didn’t agree with either.
But rather than trying to fight for my ideals and promote any political party (which can end up in a shirt-ripping debate), I’d rather ignore all that.
Because in this case, those specifics and my thoughts on the matter are irrelevant.
I’ve come to see that the political party in power isn’t the problem.
Yes, they might do things that I don’t like or agree with.
But ultimately, they’re just a reflection of what society currently values. After all, to be elected they’ve had to gain the popular vote of the people.
So with that being the case, maybe the cross-hairs of my discontent should be lowered from the current political party in office down to the society around me?
That’s certainly a popular view and a lot of people do this.
Maybe I should rail on about all the things around me that are wrong.
But I don’t think that’s the answer either.
No. I think the magnifying glass of my focus needs to be aimed at a more specific point.
I’m responsible for the current political state, as well as the society and world around me.
See, I find that when I’m pointing out all the problems, I’m putting the responsibility for them on other people.
And in doing this, it seems to subtly remove me from the equation of having to do anything.
It’s like by bringing it up, I think that it will somehow make a difference and things will magically change.
I’m often guilty of falling into the trap of pointing a finger at all the things that “someone else” (whoever that person is) needs to fix.
And I’ve come to see the end result of that is, well, nothing.
My complaining isn’t going to inspire change.
I’ve had years of experience testing that theory out, and nothing’s improved since I started my complain campaign.
That leads me humbling myself and coming to an inconvenient conclusion.
That the only thing that can change are my actions and how I interact with the world around me.
It’s not the fault of anyone else that the world around me isn’t better, when I have the ability to make a difference right where I am.
Whether it’s praying for the current political party (which I’m supposed to do as a Christian. See 1 Timothy 2:1-4), paying for someone else’ groceries in the line up behind me, or volunteering to help the homeless… the inconvenient truth is that I need to do something.
And this “something” needs to start with something small. Maybe even something incredibly easy.
Most of the time when I get inspired to start something new, I add a whole pile of things to my routine.
And before too long, I burn out and I end up back where I started. Doing nothing.
Just like when we make a resolution to get in shape starting January 1st. We run out and sign up for a gym membership, get new gym gear, enroll in classes 5 nights a week and on and on.
We end up lasting a month. If we’re pretty disciplined, maybe we last two months before we find ourselves back in our old routine.
But at this point, we’re even worse off.
Now we feel like we haven’t got the result we wanted and we’ve got some guilt piled on top of all of it because we quit.
These past experiences have now become hurdles we need to overcome the next time the idea of change comes to mind.
We’ll end up thinking, “Wait, I’ve tried that before. How did that go again? Oh yeah…”
Years ago I did some powerlifting. My goal was to lift heavy weights for 3 main exercises: the squat, deadlift and bench press.
At my best I had drug-free max lifts of:
*Squat: 600 pounds for 3 reps
*Deadlift: 500 pounds for 15 reps
*Bench Press: 400 pounds for 1 rep
And for a 22 year old figuring things out on his own, using a set of weights in his parents’ basement, I think that was pretty good.
But when you’re powerlifting, the idea is to lift as heavy as possible.
So what did I do?
I started out with really light weights. And at the time, it may have been laughably easy if anyone else saw what I was doing. (Thankfully there was nobody else around to see me. Benefits of working out in a basement.)
But this seems counterintuitive when the goal is to lift as heavy as possible.
Even though it flew in the face of conventional wisdom, by doing this I was activating a powerful psychological trigger.
The trigger? Positive reinforcement.
In choosing light weights to start, I was giving myself a chance to build positive momentum from day one.
Because I could lift the weights easily, there was no fear of failure when I started.
This reinforced in my mind that: 1) I could do this and, 2) it was easy.
Because of this, whenever I thought of lifting weights, I didn’t dread the idea.
After a little while, I slowly added more weight.
And I mean very slowly.
I’d add maybe 2.5 pounds on each side of the bar every 3-4 weeks or so, giving myself a chance to get stronger.
I let go of the idea that I had to be Superman right out of the gate.
I gave myself permission not to worry about results so I could build slowly and sustainably into the future.
Eventually I got to where I could lift heavy weights.
Just before I hit my max lifts, I was house sitting for a friend of mine.
He didn’t have any weights at his place that I could use, so I got a gym pass so I could keep lifting.
When I got to the gym, I went over to the squat cage and began loading weight onto the bar. Back then I would warm up with 320 pounds, just to get the blood moving. From there, I’d increase the weight until I hit my max lift. That particular day I was shooting for a 600 pound squat.
Now, when I lift, I’m completely focused on what I’m going to do. I am 100% in my own world because if you miss the lift, you can hurt yourself. Which I’ve done.
So I wasn’t paying attention to anything else that was going on in the gym around me, as I kept adding weight to each of my lifts.
When I made it to my last lift of 600 pounds, I happened to look around.
The ENTIRE gym had stopped what they were doing and were watching me.
Now, as I mentioned, I was used to working out in my basement. This meant that there was no one else around. On top of that, I was pretty shy.
So when I realized that all eyes were on me, it rattled me a bit.
I ended up missing the lift. And this wasn’t a big deal, because it was my first attempt ever at 600 pounds. So missing a lift on your first try when you’re trying to move big weight is pretty common.
Anyways, I finished my workout a little embarrassed at all the attention.
As I headed out of the gym, I had the gym supervisor chase me down to tell me how incredible my lifting was.
I’d come a long way from the light weights I started out with in my parents’ basement.
But I feel the process is the same when we’re introducing change of any kind into our already busy lives.
In working to see change in the world around us, we need to start with something very small, and incredibly easy.
And build from there.
Maybe it’s praying for 1 minute every day for our current political leaders.
Maybe it’s taking on an extra set of chores for an over-worked parent.
Maybe it’s actively looking for and finding 1 person a day that you can bless financially.
Whatever the action is isn’t important. It’s the getting started and staying committed that makes a difference.
There’s an ancient Chinese saying that says, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” And I’d add that it doesn’t matter how long your strides are. Even if they’re just an inch at a time.
In having the world around me reflect the positive change I want, that change has to start with me.
Even if it starts with one inch or 2.5 pounds at a time.
Lord, I come to you right now and I just humble myself before you. Lord, so often I’m guilty of complaining about the things around me.
And yet, I’ve been so unwilling to invest and put in time to change things and to be a positive influence where I can.
Lord, I’m sorry for that and I just ask that You would change me.
I know that change starts with me and that’s the one thing I can control and the one thing I can do.
So I just ask that You would come and that You would convict me and that You’d bring to light areas that I need to change in.
Areas where I can be a positive influence in the world around me.
I know that it’s easy to look around at all the negative things in the world – the things that I don’t like and the things that I feel aren’t going according to my plan. I thank you that You’re aware of them and that regardless of what I see or feel, Your plan is in action.
I thank You that You have a plan and that You’re enacting that plan, even if I don’t see it in the moment.
So Lord, I ask that You would come and that You’d begin to give wisdom and understanding to all of our leaders. That whether it’s here in Canada or the United States, or across the world, I ask that You would begin to move and help all of our leaders right now in whatever position they find themselves.
Lord, I pray for good things to happen to and for our leaders. I pray for good things to happen in and for our society. I pray for good things to happen for the people around us. Lord, I ask that You would show up in each of their lives in a very real and personal way to show them how much You love and care for each of them.