There is a parable written by the author Rob Bell about how change works:
“You’re headed out of the town for the weekend and you ask your nephew Stuart to housesit for you. Stuart’s a good kid and he needs a little money and he’s always loved your dog, so it seems like a good idea.
Until you’re driving home Sunday night and you turn onto your street and there are cars everywhere. Cars parked on your neighbor’s lawn, cars parked two deep in front of your driveway, and as you get closer to your house you see that your front lawn is full of people. There are people in the driveway, people sitting on your lawn furniture which has been rearranged in a circle out near the street - there are even people on the roof.
Of your house.
Stuart, it turns out, decided to have a party.
As you park and walk up the driveway and into the house, you notice that somebody clearly has been wrestling in the flowerbeds and then come inside because there’s dirt everywhere, including the white carpet in your living room, where they also wrestled…on the couch. Your dog smells like beer. Everything from your refrigerator is on the counter because there’s someone in your refrigerator, trying to set a world record for the longest time spent in a refrigerator.
And then you see Stuart, sitting at the head of the dining room table. He’s got six televisions hooked up - which he spliced in from the neighbors satellite - and he’s taking bets on the football games on the screens. There are tens of thousands of dollars stacked in neat piles in front of him and he is smiling, smoking a $200 cuban cigar.
As you walk into the dining room someone realizes who you are and cuts the music. People stop talking. It gets very quiet. Stuart sees you and sits up straight. You look him in the eyes, and you say:
‘Stuart, I couldn’t help but notice that you forgot to water the small plant on the desk in the den.’”
Now, the tension of the parable is that there is a dude in the refrigerator, there is dirt everywhere, your dog is potentially inebriated, and there is some questionable, even illegal, activity currently unfolding in your home.
And the first thing you feel is appropriate to do is to get the small plant on the desk in the den watered?
This is a parable about how change works.
Because we want the house restored all at once. We want everything cleaned up and fixed and changed immediately. Therefore, we expect for the owner of the house to frantically start putting everything back together, but it doesn’t happen like that. So what does the owner of the house realize that we need to pay attention to?
The owner of the house understands that if this is going to be resolved, if the house is going to get put back together, you can’t deal with the whole mess at once.
You have to start at the beginning and go step by step by step.
You have to start with the plant on the desk in the den.
Because change is hard + it happens slowly.
If you want to change the world, if you want to transform your life, if you want to heal relationships and bring flourishing wholeness to where you are in your place…it won’t happen all at once. It is going to be a process.
It is less like a magic show and more like a cliff being carved out by the repeated crashing of waves over centuries and centuries slowly taking out the rock. Your life and our world is like the erosion of the Grand Canyon. It is a slow evolution similar to when you move to a new place and slowly learn how to get around - you start with knowing one part of the map and it becomes familiar and ever so slowly your consciousness adds another street and another neighborhood and another route to your understanding of the map of your life and the world.
The writer Anne Lamott paints the picture this way, “Grace is not a run and it usually isn’t even a walk. Often grace is simply a slow scooch across the floor.”
Which can be discouraging - we usually start out wanting to change something with vast plans and dreams about what the change will look like and we get driven into the ground the more we realize how grueling and unromantic the process is.
And so, in your change, in whatever transformation or development you are pursuing…begin like Stuart. Take the tiny steps that will move you to the next thing and then the next thing and then the next thing with full understanding that wherever you are going, whatever rock cliff you are trying to carve and sculpt out - you only have water and this will take some time. The process of learning the map will only come through consistent action over time…and time is certainly what it will take.
Whatever your mess, you can't clean it up all at once.
Because change is hard + it happens slowly.
So for you - we’ve seen that not only can you change, but that you inevitably will. We’ve then explored how the change will cost you something. Now you must stare down your change and begin the process. Here are two questions you should ask as we prepare to get into the details of "How We Change" over the next several weeks:
- What do you want to change? — you must begin by naming it.
- What is going to be the first, small, tiny, watering the plant, learning the first street on the map kind of step?
You need to start with where you are and focus on one microscopic piece of that cliff at a time. That kind of consistent action over time is how we will change.
The process will continue to unfold from there…
…which is what we will begin exploring next.