As I read the Bible, both Old and New Testament, I began noticing when people typically ended up failing or going off the rails and when people tended to be truly transformed. In most cases, the failures followed commitments that were put on them, guilted, or even assumed. Transformation happened when it was a heart thing, a choice and a choice that started upstream from the behavior changes. The commitments that really ended up transformational had a few common characteristics:
- True commitments are relational — it’s not a commitment to a system, to a set of rules or standards but to a person. Again, none of these things are foolproof but let’s think about marriage. When I say “I do” to my bride on my wedding day, I’m typically not doing so out of coercion or because I “should” but because I’m crazy about her! And that relational commitment has sustained very consistent behavior from me for 20 years now! My commitment spiritually speaking is not to change my behavior, but my commitment is to a relationship with God and out of the commitment my behaviors will naturally change.
- True commitments are choices — when I don’t feel like I have an option to “not” choose this, I will tend to either be reluctant (drag my feet) or resentful and therefore my actions will be done from a heart that is far from sustainable. I believe one of the major reasons God allows evil to still be present on earth is it creates a clear alternative option. Not an option that God wants us to take and not one that He won’t continually warn us about, but an alternative none the less. Again to use my marriage as an example, if I don’t feel I got to choose my wife than I would always wonder what I was missing. But seeing others, showed me this is the choice I want to make.
- True commitments are a mindset — we must approach our commitments with open eyes and knowledgable brains. While we can’t predict everything that might happen or be tested we should not be blindsided with thoughts like, “I didn’t realize when I made this commitment I would have to…” Yet to be clear, the commitment isn’t to a set of behaviors, because making a list could limit our commitment to the items on the list. It’s a mindset, it’s reorienting my life around the commitment I choose to make. This is the big problem with what is often labeled as legalism, it creates an unnecessary dependence on the system/leaders etc. However if we learn to reorient our mindset around the choice we make we will have a constant ability to discern the appropriate response to any challenges.
These are just a start into this discussion as I’m learning about lasting change. I want to end with the key concept which will also address when our commitments drift. The key to change is the heart commitments we choose to make. Start with the relational commitment NOT with the behaviors. And when drift occurs (which every commitment is susceptible to) we must go back and renew the commitment or “recommit” yet what often happens is we try to start behaving differently or like we “used to” only to be frustrated that it doesn’t bring the change we long for. The key is to go back to the heart, to the commitment and always let the behaviors flow from the commitment, not the other way around.