By Dr. Teresa Hairston
Experiencing recession was a harrowing experience for millions of people. Many of us lost jobs, houses, financial savings and even emotional stability. Families were adversely affected, plans for the future were adjusted and carefully conceived careers were abruptly revised. For many, recession was a game-changer.
But, while we easily acknowledge the havoc of the recession, perhaps we should look a little deeper to discover the positive aspects of this experience. Positive aspects? Yes, there have been some positive outcomes. Amidst the realigned life plans, readjusted budgets or spending habits and revised priorities, we rediscovered that life isnâ€™t about big houses, fancy cars and stuff; itâ€™s about family, itâ€™s about giving to others and itâ€™s about faith. One friend eloquently stated, â€œGod has trusted us with trouble.â€
The challenges of the recession forced us to make many positive changes that without the pressure and stress of the recession, many of us would not have made. The challenges were unexpected and unpleasant, but now that we have endured them, we must ask ourselves, â€˜how will we handle the future?â€™ Will we attempt to return to our old plans, spending habits and priorities, or will we adapt, realign and restructure our lives for the better? In Mark 2:22, Jesus teaches about change. He says, â€œAnd no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the wine would burst the wineskins, and the wine and the skins would both be lost. New wine calls for new wineskins.â€
In the days of Jesus, wine was trans- ported from place to place on the backs of horses and camels. If the wine were put in ceramic bottles or wooden kegs, it made transporting it extremely difficult; a better option was to use animal skins that were sewn together and specially prepared by an ancient method of waterproofing. These skins could hold any- where from a few gallons up to 60 gallons of wine, and they were much more convenient to transport since they could be tied together and laid across the backs of the animals. These skins would stretch naturally as the process of wine fermentation took place. However, after a skin was initially stretched, it couldnâ€™t be reused, because it had already been stretched to capacity and therefore, had no ability to withstand the pressure of new wine.
Jesusâ€™ illustration of the need for a new wineskin demonstrated the need to replace the old outward rituals and practices of religion with a new vibrant embrace of faith that revolved around loving God with all of oneâ€™s heart, mind and soul. Essentially, He was saying, â€˜Out with the old, in with the new!â€™
A girlfriend of mine recently was forced to let go of an old relationship. It was a guy relationship of â€œlove and comfortâ€ but it wasnâ€™t representative of where she was going in her spiritual life. She had made a commitment to totally live for Godâ€”mind, soul and bodyâ€”and no longer did she want to compromise her standards.
Initially, instead of completely cut-ting her ties with her guy, she tried to â€œadjustâ€ things, but he wasnâ€™t having it. Although he liked and supported her new commitment to her prayer life and he agreed with her new positive outlook and plan for her future, he still wanted what he wanted when he wanted…
My sister decided to take a stand. â€œI love you,â€ she told him, â€œbut I love God more!â€ She ended the relationship. She cried and cried, but ultimately, she decided to trust God to give her a new man who loved God more than his own desires. Jesus said, â€œNew wine calls for new wineskins.â€
Mixing a new mindset with an old one doesnâ€™t work.
If youâ€™re going to renovate your kitchen youâ€™ve got to get new appliances. An old dishwasher, antiquated microwave or half-working refrigerator mixed in with new countertops and flooring just doesnâ€™t work. If youâ€™re going to renovate your life, you need new habits and new relationships. Paul writes, â€œTherefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become newâ€ (2 Cor 5:17, NKJV). If you donâ€™t change your environment, youâ€™ll find yourself falling back into the mindset of the old, broke-down stuff, and before you know it, youâ€™ll be back in the same place you were.
Compromising a new lifestyle with an old one is counterproductive.
When you really commit to change, some things must go. No, I donâ€™t mean put them down, I mean put them out. I recently decided to clean out my closet. It was an emotional experience (to say the least!) There were clothes that had â€œstories.â€ I got this sweater when I was in Las Vegas; I got this dress and wore it to that special event; these shoes were so fab-u-lous a couple years ago when I got them (even though they hurt my feet and I didnâ€™t wear them but twice!) But I packed up five boxes and bags and sent them sailing off to Goodwill. Oh…the pain! I wanted to hug each box and bag as it left the premises, never to return!
Itâ€™s time to clear out your emotional, spiritual and physical closet. Youâ€™ve got some baggage in thereâ€”down in the corner, in the backâ€”stuff that youâ€™ve been â€œnotâ€ dealing with for years! Itâ€™s time…turn the light on, go on…go in there and get it, box it or bag it and throw it out! Get rid of it! And donâ€™t look back!
â€œBrethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,â€ (Phil 3:13). Itâ€™s time to get real, get up from where youâ€™ve been, and move to where God wants you to go.
Committing to change requires new courage, new consistency and reconstruction.
There are systems and patterns that must be uprooted in your life. It takes courage to confront deeply ingrained systems and patterns that have become part of your life. If youâ€™re used to not living on a budget; not eating healthy; not getting the proper rest and so on, itâ€™s going to be difficult to change. First, youâ€™ve got to face yourself and convince yourself that all the â€œreasonsâ€ for these behaviors are just lame excuses. You can change and you must!
Develop a plan, write it down and get a strong accountability partner. Your â€œPlan for Positive Changeâ€ has three dimensionsâ€”spiritual, physical and emotional. If you are committed to change, be consistent and youâ€™ll see results! Youâ€™ll be able to say, â€œAll things have become new.â€
A few months ago, Bishop Charles E. Blake closed a dynamic message by telling everyone to stand up and then take three steps to the right. We obeyed. He then told us to take another three steps to the right, and then do it again. By this time we were nowhere near our original seats. He told us to look down, claim the new territory and praise God! He said that where we were now represented the future territory that God was giving usâ€”a new place where we could give God praise. Where we had been was our past, a place and a position that was behind us; and then he said, â€œI see you in your future…and you look mighty good!â€ My friend, I see the â€œnewâ€ you…and you look mighty good.
God bless you!