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George Michael: Change you can believe in

January 06, 2012|By GEORGE MICHAEL

New Year's Day is the time we make our plans for the coming year. What are some things I want to accomplish? What do I want to work on, to see, to experience? This focus on the year ahead is often accompanied by what are known as "New Year's resolutions."

Many of us have given up on such resolutions. We have disappointed ourselves too many times. Making changes is great in theory but hard to put into practice.  We like the familiar, the comfortable. We tend to resist change. We go so far as to sit in the same seat each Sunday in church, unless some visitor gets there first.

In a book I am reading related to this topic, the author notes that heart patients, following bypass surgery, are basically told, "Change or die." The doctor emphasizes that you will not live long without making significant lifestyle changes. Sadly, 90 percent of such patients are not willing or not able to make the critical changes.

Change was a popular buzz word four years ago for Obama in his run for office. "Change You Can Believe In" was a catchy slogan. Given the mood of the country at the time, it seemed to work.  

President Obama was not the first political newcomer to use "change" as a political mantra. Politicians on the outside running against an incumbent frequently latch onto the idea of change in one form or another. It is in their self-interest to do so.

But after one term in office, the idea of change is not nearly so appealing to them. Running for office as an incumbent requires a new theme.

But what does real change really mean? Like the politician running for office, change for most people is a focus on externals only. When considering changes, we likely think of something in our environment. We think things would be better if something around me or someone around me would change. I need a job change. My spouse is the problem; he or she needs to change. If we had more money, our lives would change.

President Lyndon Johnson declared a war on poverty in the 1960s, and as someone observed, poverty won. Slums were torn down. Housing projects in big cities such as Chicago, St. Louis and Baltimore were built in their places. Within a generation, most of these projects were torn down. They had become the new slums. Like most government programs, such efforts are based on insufficient change, one in the outside environment only.

The 19th century in France saw a lot of governmental and political change.  Following the upheaval of Napoleon's time in office, the French had to replace their constitution and government several times. This led to a popular saying: "The more things change, the more they stay the same."

But real change, lasting change, significant change, is based on change from the inside — not simply external change. In the Bible, the word "change" is actually the Greek word "metamorphosis." It is found in Romans 12:2. It is sometimes translated by our word "transformed."  

Metamorphosis, literally, a change of form, is used in science to describe some of the remarkable changes some creatures of nature go through when they are transformed from one thing to another. An ugly, plain-looking worm becomes a colorful butterfly.

Real and important change happens on the inside. It is about my character. It is who I am as a person. It is about who I need to become. For the follower of Christ, it starts with receiving a new nature — a change, a big change, to the core. The Apostle Paul said, "If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation (II Corinthians 5:17)."   

All can experience change if we are willing to commit to a different regimen, a different lifestyle, a new attitude. It needs to start at the innermost core of our being, the part of our soul known as the will. Unless it happens there, not much will really change.

The worm becomes a butterfly. The sinner can become a saint, with God's help. Not perfect, but at least on a new path, a new direction. Life can take on a whole new meaning. Now, there is change you can believe in.

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George Michael, who lives in Williamsport, is a former principal of Grace Academy. His email address is gfmichael46@gmail.com.


Editor's note: This column was edited Jan. 10, 2012, to correct the origin of the Bible verse in the 12th paragraph.

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