Monday, December 5, 2011

Life Beyond Maintenance

Chances are you are familiar with the following cycle. You have a moment in your journey when you learn a lesson. It might some great spiritual insight, or a simple principle that helps with daily living. Over time this new insight grows cold and once again something seems broken. In an effort to repair what is broken, you seek after wholeness again. As you seek you remember the insight from before and feel whole again. You repeat this cycle endlessly. This is a cycle describing many peoples interaction with church. On the weekend there is a great insight that makes life seem livable, so you follow it. By the next week the struggle is back on. In this mode attending a church gathering becomes a form of maintenance in our lives. With startling regularity we find ourselves struggling with that same old issue once again, even though we preform our regular maintenance.

It could be that all you need is regular maintenance. Like an oil change in a car, there simply needs to be attention paid to keeping things running at their peak. However, there are times when the recurring problem requires more than maintenance, it requires an overhaul. This moves beyond a simple insight to apply to our lives. An overhaul is when we dismantle something and replace it with something more suiting to the result we are looking for. An example might be helpful. So many people tell me they want to experience a closeness with God like they have not experienced, and they are hoping that regular attendance of services will accomplish this end. Over time there is perfect attendance, however there is not greater intimacy with God. It is not because the services are failing to be effective, it is we need an overhaul. There is a need to change some of the fundamental actions and thoughts of our daily lives. Maintenance gives us the ability to manage the struggles without ever really addressing the issue behind the struggle. An overhaul goes deeper, to the root of the struggle.

I have a feeling that most of us go through life managing the challenges we face without ever really dealing with them. We find ways to function daily and keep our challenges in check, yet there are times when the in place maintenance plan no longer works. Rather than do an overhaul, we simply change maintenance plans. We are called by the God of love to do more than live a life on a maintenance plan, we are called to experience a life of fullness.

So how do we make this happen in our lives. First, is be willing to go beneath the surface. When we want to make changes to the way we experience life, we have to be willing to make more than maintenance changes. Feeling overwhelmed by a schedule will require more than a simple correction to the scheduling of my time. After I make changes in my scheduling patters, over time I will return the former place. The challenge is to dig into the question of why I over schedule my life, what are my motives? Or to put it another way, what need within me is being fulfilled by over scheduling.

If more of us began to ask the deeper questions and make the deeper changes in our lives, then more people would experience life beyond maintenance. Fair warning, this is not as easy as maintenance. Moving beyond maintenance will require digging into sections of our lives we may have ignored for a while. It will require us to re-pattern our lives. Old wounds left to fester will have to be reopened for full healing. So many people choose maintenance rather than overhaul because maintenance is safe and relatively harmless. An overhaul will mean great challenge. On the other side of things however, maintenance will keep you locked in the same place. The overhaul will open the doors of transformation.

So I invite you to a life beyond maintenance. Know that the journey will be difficult. Know also you will not journey alone. We have a God who is there with us. This is the truest understanding of Christmas. We have a God who made a dwelling place among us. This is the person of Jesus Christ who promises to never leave or forsake us. No matter what challenge you are facing, or how long you have faced it, you can move beyond maintenance. There is hope in the struggle.

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