Across most cultures and faiths, there are a few key concepts, thoughts, or values that seem to emerge. One of these transferable truths is that the most profound way to impact the planet and the lives of others is by first allowing God to do a work in our own hearts.
This month's powerful prayer, while credited to a Sufi poet from the 800's, is one to take to heart. Find a place to settle, remove your distractions, grab a cup of coffee or tea and slowly read the prayer/story.
Change the World By Changing Me
I was a revolutionary when I
was young and all my prayer
to God was 'Lord, give me the
energy to change the world.'
"As I approached middle age
and realized that half my life
was gone without my changing
a single soul, I changed my
prayer to 'Lord, give me the
grace to change all those who
come in contact with me.
Just my family and friends and
I shall be satisfied.'
"Now that I am an old man and
my days are numbered, my one
prayer is, 'Lord, give me the grace
to change myself.' If I had prayed
for this right from the start I should
have not wasted my life."
~attributed to Bayazid
Perhaps this poets words struck a chord with me because this seems to have been a journey which mirrors my own. As we look at the different decades of our lives, we begin to see this reality played out in the way we approach the world, other people, and ourselves.
In our 20's and 30's we are consumed with passion to make the world and the planet a different and better place. This age is marked with a needed egocentrism that propels us to passionately stand up and try to right the wrongs that our conscience sees in the world. We are in love with the idea that we can be a change agent,and as we begin down this path, our good intentions are often overshadowed by our lack of maturity and the good that we desire to accomplish becomes a hard-edged, often legalistic and a graceless attempt to fix the world to the way we think it should be. As we grow up, and begin to consider our ways, we transition to the next phase of life. While we transition it is important to remember that passion though…I have met far too many people who simply traded the passion of their youth in for money, stuff and things…then they wonder what ever happened to the person they used to be…
In our 30's and 40's our focus has changed as we enter into marriage, children, and sustaining our home life. The desire to see the world changed is still there, but it is tempered by the realities and the responsibilities of life. No longer able to join every demonstration that comes along, nor able to afford to go wherever the fight may be, we try to make an impact where we are. Volunteering at church, synagogue, or community. Investing in our children's education and social lives. Infusing our friends and family connections with the passion that still remains in our soul but seems to have fewer outlets. In this phase of life it is important to process the limitations we experience in life. If we do not transition this time of our life well, we will begin to "act out" in ways to try to regain that power and control that we thought we had before. This is a key time to consider the paradoxes of life as you realize that the old way of doing things not only no longer works, but often, they didn't really help that much. Here we begin to transition from Me-control to God-control.
From our 40's and 50's and beyond we begin to learn the God-rhythms of life that began early on but were done more as a duty than as a part of our humanity. This is the time of surrender in our lives…when we are secure enough to be insecure; smart enough to admit we don't know; and realize that we can no longer fake it. Our focus moves off of changing everything around us, and we begin to change the one thing that we can…ourselves.
What is actually so powerful about this transition is that as I truly allow God to move and morph me, I have the greatest impact on those closest to me, those around me, and in a very real way can impact the planet. While the delivery changes, the desire is fulfilled, but it is done in such a way that I am forever changed.
Jesus said it best, "Seek first the kingdom and these things shall be added to you." In otherwords, keep your heart's focus on your life with God, His ways, His purposes, and those passions and desires that roam the corridors of your heart will find fulfillment through Christ.
So this month as you pray, may the meditation of your heart be to first experience a divine life change in the depths of who you are….as that happens, believe me, this planet will change!