Episode 1. Same Old Rut
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At the beginning of a New Year, one of the things that plays on our minds a bit is the notion that we’re just caught in the same old rut. Hmm. I wonder – well, I wonder what God’s take is on …
At the beginning of a New Year, one of the things that plays on our minds a bit is the notion that we’re just caught in the same old rut. Hmm. I wonder – well, I wonder what God’s take is on that.
Well, as we sit here on the threshold of yet another year. I don’t know, my hunch is that, for many of us, there are mixed emotions. On the one hand, there’s a sense of anticipation, a sense of hope at what the New Year might bring. This is the time of year where so many of us dream of a better life, of a better future, of fresh new possibilities.
And yet, as we look back over the last year and the year before that and the year before that, we can see a constancy, almost a monotony of the same old, same old – same old marriage, same old home, same old job, same old people, same old, same old life. And the sense of anticipation, a sense of excitement at the possibilities that a new year might bring, they evaporate in an instant when we think of the same old, same old.
Let’s face it; most of us are caught in a rut, that same old rut. Like a groove in the old vinyl records, just going round and round and round, in that rut that never seems to end. What we want is a new page, a new book, a new story, a new life. But as we look ahead to the horizon, as far as the eye can see, all we can see is that same old, same old, same old.
I want to tell you a story about a friend of mine called Bob. Bob’s a great guy; I’ve known him since I was a teenager. His trade was electronics and he taught apprentices when I was still at high school. One day he decided to become a minister and he did that. It was a big change, for him and his family, and he went off to do his four years of training. Then, over the years, he ministered in one parish after the next.
When it came time for him to retire, well he didn’t believe in that. He had a heart, for many years, to work as a counsellor, did all the training and in fact, he became a lecturer in this field. So retirement, for him, was moving out of the city where he lived, leaving the parish ministry behind but establishing a counselling practice in a coastal area outside the smoggy, busy city where he lived most of his life, in a beautiful, idyllic beach side location.
Sounds fabulous, doesn’t it? Beautiful place where he settled and it seemed kind of odd to me because I imagined that the place where counsellors were needed were back in that dirty, busy, grotty city. That place with all it’s pressures and demands and commuting. And I asked him about it. I said “Bob, how could you move up to this place, this beautiful coastal, almost resort and become a counsellor and set up a counselling practice?”
And he said, “People think just like you. They think that if they leave the busy city with all its pressures and they have their sea change, then all their problems will go away. But” he said, “actually, it’s exactly the opposite. They bring all their problems with them and then, they don’t have their friends and family around them, as they once did and everything becomes a whole bunch worse.”
Mmm, see people think that they’ll trade their pressure for relaxation, the city for an idyllic beachside location and then, then it will all get better. The truth is though, it’s not their location, it’s not their circumstances where their problems lie. The problems lie in their hearts, on the inside where they live.
Isn’t that fascinating? Isn’t it fascinating how we think that if only our circumstances or our situation would change, then everything would be better? We look on the outer things but the reality is that the problems are in our hearts.
How many times have you and I thought, “If only I could change this one thing in my life, just this one thing, then everything would be better? If only I had just a little bit more money, not a lot, just another 10%, then things wouldn’t be so tight. I could afford a few extra things, then life would be sweet. If only my wife or my husband loved me more. If only my kids would behave. If only I could get a new job. If only this, if only that …”
No doubt, there are times in our life when we need a change, when we’re ready for a change. A new job, even a new career or a move somewhere, those are good things, by and large but they aren’t the solutions to the anxieties and the fears that gnaw away at our souls. They’re not the answer to all our woes.
We can change the circumstances but if we have things going on inside that go unresolved, then we can change whatever we like on the outside but it’s not going to make one shred of difference on the inside.
So here we stand at the beginning of a new year. Many of us are wishing we weren’t in the same old rut still. Many of us are thinking, looking desperately, seeking a new life, to turn over a new page, to start a new story. But so often we look in the wrong places for that when all along we need God to do something in our hearts.
In the Old Testament, in Ezekiel, chapter 36, verse 26 it says this:
A new heart I will give you and a new spirit I will put within you and I will remove from your body, the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
I wonder what would happen if we started looking in the right places. Instead of trying to change this or that, if we started looking at our hearts, at our attitudes, at those things that we really can change?
So many wives leave their husbands dissatisfied. They’ve had enough; they toss the marriage on the scrap heap. “We’ve grown apart”, they’ll say. I wonder what would happen if that wife, who right this moment is contemplating divorce, I wonder what would happen if she went to God and said, “God, give me a new heart for this man. Show me how to love him, show me how to reach him. Change my heart for him”, I wonder what would happen.
There are so many men fighting so many battles in their lives – battles with their wives, battles with their children, battles with their work colleagues. I wonder if that man, who’s heading out the door to work tomorrow morning, I wonder how he’d go if he went to God and said, “God, put your peace in my heart. Show me how to have peace. Show me how to be a peacemaker, show me how to stop fighting and competing with everyone.” I wonder what that mans life would look like, in a year or two’s time.
They’re just a couple of examples. There are some practical things that we can do to get out of the rut. See, for most of us, the problem isn’t the rut, the problem’s the mould. It’s not the path we’re travelling but it’s the shape that we’re in.
The apostle Paul knew that when he wrote this. He said:
Don’t be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you may know what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mould. Break the mould, let God renew your heart and your mind so that you can figure out the good and acceptable and perfect will He has for your life.
See, for many of us, actually we’re not in particularly good shape – our bodies, our souls, our spirits – the three parts of who we are. For many of us, one or other of those needs some help. We get those sorted and all of a sudden, a life that looked like it was in a rut, well you look ahead now and all you can see are possibilities.
That’s what we’re going to be looking at, this week, on the program. Turning a new page, starting a new life, looking at our bodies, our soul and our spirit, from a different perspective.