Wednesday, April 30, 2014

You Can't Change Anything From Inside the Limo

Things change.
They do. Always. I can't do anything about that.
I don't always like it, though. Like when kids grow up and move away. Like when parents or friends or spouses die. Heck, I don't even like it when a favorite restaurant changes their menu or skirt lengths go short again.
But sometimes...sometimes I just know things HAVE to change. And, even worse, that I'm the one who's supposed to help change them.

I can't even imagine how Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela felt. Yikes. They changed BIG things. My convicted changes aren't that big--not even close. But they're big to me. And, like those famous men, I have to figure out how to implement them. Whether it's school reform, or property taxes, or how my church runs their Sunday school, change sometimes calls me to work, and I am going to need a plan.

My first big experience with this came in business. I worked for a company top-heavy in wealth and privilege. The men and women who worked in our factory worked hard--really hard--and got none of the perks I saw handed out liberally to managers and executives--bonuses, both cash and non-cash. It wasn't right, I thought from my entry level office desk. If I ever got the chance to change that...well, I would.

Eventually, I got the chance.

When I got promoted to Vice President, I had big plans. I would shine a new light into the executive offices. I would make the changes I'd always seen needed making. But then, on my next business trip, the company paid for a limo to pick me up at 5AM and take me to the airport. Instead of sending it away and driving myself, I settled deep into the leather seats and napped. And a few months later, when I realized that the bonus I got that year would pay for my younger son's college education, I didn't cash the check and distribute it to those hard working men and women on the shop floor like I'd planned to do. Instead, I deposited into our savings account.

Were these things evil? Not really. But they serve to demonstrate something I learned the hard way then and in the long years that followed. Even after I'd stopped joining the excess and started fighting it, the big boys didn't care that I didn't want to play with them. It didn't matter to them at all, as long as I didn't interfere with their fun. And I didn't interfere, but not because I didn't want to. I didn't stop them from their greed because I didn't have the clout to do it. They couldn't care less what I thought or did. To them, my example was not eye opening--it was, maybe, faintly amusing. Finally, I did the only thing I could decently do. I gave up and got out.

This is what I learned: real change does not generally come from the inside.  Not unless the changer is also in charge. Kings can exert change. Sometimes very disciplined presidents and CEO's can. But not the rest of us. If we want to change something, we have to step out of it first. I saw this in business, but I also saw it in the school where I later taught and in the church we attended. There, too, we tried to enact change from the inside and found that it couldn't be done.

God knows this, too.
Example: Right after Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem to waving palm branches and cries of 'Hosanna', what did He do? He marched right over to the temple and chased out the money changers for the second time.
It is written--My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves!--Matthew 21:13
And what happened?
The scribes and the chief priests heard it and sought out how they might destroy him.--Mark 11:18

Jesus didn't become a temple honcho first. He came in almost incognito--a young guy from a small town, but with wisdom and a mission He thoroughly understood. He could see clearly from the outside, whether from heaven or from Nazareth or from the back of a donkey, the kind of corruption so rarely visible from inside.

Obviously, I am prejudiced by my own experience. The hierarchy surrounding my own situations chewed me up and spit me out. Just like Jesus. Well, almost.

And that's my takeaway from all this. The people Christ criticized destroyed Him, or tried to. When they were finished with him, He was certainly very dead. But the same as He did, I rose up from each of my experiences remade, better than I'd begun. And amazingly, in the process, some of the things that needed changing did change. Not directly from what I did, but they did change, and some are still changing.

Just like Jesus, I left each of these situations an outcast, but not untouched, unchanged. And I learned to trust that God will use my actions in His own way. I also now know not to trust reformers with a stake in the status quo, but only those who have nothing to lose by changing it.
They have the vision. They follow the right example.


  1. from the inside out, the heart spaces
    great post today!

    1. Heart change from the inside out...practical change from the outside in. Thanks for the encouragement.

  2. "Finally, I did the only thing I could decently do. I gave up and got out." Am dealing with a similar situation and am grateful God sent me to your post for more clarity and encouragement. Thank you, sister, and Jesus bless you.

    1. Laura--praying for you today. I've run into this same situation three times and all three turned out the same way. But, like Christ, we can change things, and by following Him with steadfast intention. And if we can do that from the inside, fine, but too often, we have to be the light shining in the darkness. That, I've found, does work.