I’m not a big fan of mechanical change. That’s what happens when we add to our spiritual, physical, or vocational disciplines because we’re s’posed to.
(If you’re not from the south, “s’posed to” is a colloquialism that you may know as “supposed to.” i.e., “I wudn’ta eat them taters on m’own, but Maw said I was s’posed to.” When you do something because you’re s’posed to, it’s usually forced, temporary, and not much fun.)
The much better option is organic change, where our very natures are changed from the inside out. That change only comes from the power of the gospel, an “other-than-us” power where Jesus transforms our hearts and minds, and as a result we want to do the things that we’re otherwise s’posed to.
But in my life, I’ve found that mechanical processes can often lead to organic change. Exhibit A: in 25+ years of being a Christian, I’ve never once hopped out of bed first thing in the morning and ran towards my Bible in order to spend some time in God’s word. Nope, more often than not I ooze out of bed, mope into the kitchen, drink a couple of gallons of coffee, catch up on the morning news, read a few dozen updates on The Twitter, sand and refinish the dining room table, and work on my diabolical master plan to rid the world of that unfortunate little bald and all-too-whiny cartoon character known as Caillou.
The problem: by the time I do all the things that compete for my attention, Bible reading is on the back burner and the next thing you know I can’t tell the difference between Elijah and Elisha (hint: they’re not spelled the same). So a couple of years ago I made up a template for a little chart: two months’ worth of calendar dates are crammed onto an index card, and every day I write down how long I spent reading and praying as well as what I read.
It was the kind of goal-driven motivation that a Type-A guy like me needed. Do it because it’s fun? Nope. Do it because I’m trying to beat my former streak? Yes.
“Now wait,” you say, “doesn’t that reduce Bible reading down to something that you’re s’posed to do?” Well, you’d think so (or else you wouldn’t have theoretically asked the question). But what I’ve found is that the simple act of mechanically setting a goal and then documenting that goal led to me actually looking forward to my time in Bible study.
Mechanical processes led to organic change.
And we’re not just talking about Bible reading. My wife and I will rarely find time to have a date if we don’t sit down with the calendar and block that time out. Our relationship organically changes because of mechanical process.
My boys and I have a weekly appointment called Man’s Night. Every week I take one of them for a super-cheap activity, so that every three weeks I’m spending some valuable, extended one-on-one time with each of them. It’s mechanical (I know that it’s going to happen every week) but it’s led to organic conversations and growth.
When I create space for something to happen (mechanics), I’m surprised at how often they end up naturally happening (organics).
I could say the same about the mechanical disciplines of writing, exercising, catching up with friends, eradicating Calliou, whatever.
How about you? Where are the areas where you’ve seen the organics improved by the mechanics you implemented? Comment below.
3:25 PM UPDATE:
Every once in a while, a post that looked decent in the morning looks like a train wreck in the afternoon, and I regret the way some of the statements came across (not the statement about eradicating Calliou. I wholeheartedly stand by that).
The above exercise could easily lead to legalism. (“If I _____, then God will ____.”) It could make us prone to feel pretty good about progress simply because we’ve checked a few things off a list. The bottom line of organics vs. mechanics is that mechanics help us create space for organics to happen. If I don’t plan to study the Bible, I’ll never study the Bible. But it’s in the context of that planned time that God often speaks. The goal of all mechanics should be to make room for organics to spring up…not to change ourselves, but to allow Jesus to change us.
There. I feel better now. I’m off to find a balding cartoon character.