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When You Want to Make Big Changes

It is not secret that we all need to make changes in our lives. Our skills are still developing, our attitudes need to be consistently adjusted, and our thinking needs to be aligned with the new discoveries and challenges of our lives. Most of these changes are normal, daily, and fairly routine. They can be addressed with personal discipline, casual learning and interaction with friends.
Every once in a while, however, the need for a big change presents itself and that takes a different strategy. The big change may be a physical or career move. It may be a major project in which you invest yourself. It may be a personal change to overcome entrenched negative patterns. The goals are large, the task is daunting and the resistance intensifies with every move you try to make. Nehemiah 4 is an excellent case study in the practical steps that help move big change forward.
Ignore the Nonsense: You would think that people would applaud success and encourage positive steps forward but that is not the world we live in. When you try to make real change in life, others get threatened. The progress in your life makes them feel scared, inadequate, guilty or insecure. Your forward movement reminds them of their own need to change and they react against you rather than readjust their own lives. In the process they often make statements that simply do not make sense. In Jerusalem, those opposed to the rebuilding of the wall started making ridiculous statements, “What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble—burned as they are?”(v. 2) “What they are building—even a fox climbing up on it would break down their wall of stones!” (v. 3) This is far from a sincere evaluation of the project. The Jews never had the goal of finishing in a day or having stones come to life and nobody who is building a protective wall would do such poor workmanship that a fox could tumble it simply by climbing up on it.
The temptation is to try to answer the objections with logic which seldom, if ever, works because the accusations don’t make sense to begin with. I was watching an interview with Dr. Phil in regards to the Casey Anthony murder trial. His assessment of some of her previous actions and statements was, “You can’t make sense out of nonsense.”
Work from the Heart: I have noticed that it takes a certain amount of desperation to make the big alterations in our lives. We must get to a point where it is totally unacceptable to keep living the way we are in order to break the bad habits and overcome the obstacles. Most people I meet are sincere about their need to change but much fewer are determined enough to actually do what it takes. “So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.” (v. 6) The kind of stubborn resilience it takes comes from the heart. Your heart will call you forward even though you don’t have all the answers and may only know the next step in the process while the rest of the journey seems lost in the fog. I love this verse because I tell people regularly, “When you are half way through a big change, it will feel like you are halfway across a bridge and the fog just rolled in. You can’t see where you are going and you can’t see where you came from. The temptation is to get scared and go back. If you keep pushing forward, however, the fog will clear.”
Stand Guard: As you continue to grow people will get angry with you, tell you it can never succeed, and call you back to the way it has always been. This confuses a lot of people because we expect others to be glad that we are getting better. The reality is that your transformation puts pressure on them to live differently and they don’t like it. It is not acceptable for them to say they don’t want to improve so they try to discourage you instead.
Those who opposed the rebuilding of the wall “were very angry (v. 8),and plotted together to . . . stir up trouble against it.” (v. 9) Even well-meaning Jewish neighbors joined in, “and told us ten times over, ‘Wherever you turn, they will attack us.’” (v. 12) Rather than answer all the objections, Nehemiah refocused on the goal and set up safeguards to keep them on track, “Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows. After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” (v. 13-14)
May God give us extra grace for the big changes in life!

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