Have you ever tried to do something “switch”?
In the skateboarding world, athletes usually prefer riding with either their left foot or their right foot at the “front” of the board. When a skater has the desire to “level up” they need to learn to ride in a “switch” stance, that is, with their other foot in front. This will allow them to do tricks while riding in either direction- a very beneficial skill to have. However, the process of learning to ride “switch” is quite uncomfortable, especially if you start years after riding one way.
I have been riding a skateboard for most of my life. I almost always ride with my left foot in front. Today, I decided to ride my longboard to my church. And I decided to ride all the way there “switch.” (I live about a half mile away from the church, so it’s a manageable ride.)
Leaving my apartment complex, I stepped onto my board, right foot in front, and… immediately regretted my decision. I felt off balance. The “simple” action of pushing was cumbersome. I became self-conscious, wondering, “what will people think when they see me looking so ‘goofy’ doing something I’m normally pretty good at? There were times I needed to ride on the street (because the sidewalk ends in random places). When this happened, I actually had to pay attention to the cars going by and I had to slow down- almost to a stop- to stay out of their way. (I have enough confidence and skill to skate on the road, hugging the edge of it, while riding “regular,” but not while riding “switch.”) Additionally, my mind periodically screamed, “go back to the way you are used to doing this!” Then, I had to stop multiple times to pick up my board to step off a curb. (Normally, I just glide off the edge and land in the street. But not while riding “switch”!) In all, it was a rough experience.
But I persevered. Yep. I made it to the church- despite doubt, disappointment, and difficulty. And it made me think… The sanctification process sometimes feels like my experience riding “switch.”
All of us, over the course of our lives, have developed patterns of thought, speech, and behavior. Ways that feel “right” to us. But before meeting Jesus (for those of us who have) these patterns were strongly tainted by sin. (Examples include, entertaining lustful thoughts, using profanity, and cheating on exams.)
But when God got hold of us- saving us “by grace through faith”- and filled us with his Spirit- he extended the invitation (and granted us the ability) to change: to “switch” up the way we do things. (For example, instead of entertaining lust, he gives us the ability to love others sacrificially, the way he loved us. Instead of using profanity, he gives us words of grace that build up the people around us. Instead of cheating, he gives us the desire to put in the effort required to do things well; or resign ourselves to the fact that failure- or mediocrity, in some areas- isn’t the end of the world.)
The Apostle Paul makes it clear in his letter to the Galatians that Christians are expected to leave behind their old patterns in the pursuit of new ones. He instructed his audience (and us by extension), “…walk by the Spirit and you will certainly not carry out the desire of the flesh.” It’s clear to see that the Galatians were used to “walking” in a way that allowed them to gratify their fleshly desires- but Paul is telling them, “it’s time to switch things up.”
While riding to work today, I realized just how difficult and uncomfortable it is to do a well-known activity in a new way. But discomfort is a part of learning new skills and developing new habits. Thus, we will face challenges when we commit to follow Jesus and allow his Spirit to guide us into new patterns. For most of us, we spent years giving in to the desires of our flesh. But now, with the Spirit inside of us, we are invited to lean into his power- and resist the temptation to do things “the way we have always done them.” But changing isn’t easy.
If we set our minds to “switch” old habits out for new ones, we will run into challenges like the ones I faced on my longboard: self-consciousness, momentary regret, temptation to go back to what is comfortable and “normal,” disappointment in the pace of development, and so many others. (We may even falter and return to our sinful habits. But there’s grace for that.) And here’s the truth: it’s worth it.
It’s worth it to let the Spirit lead us- despite the difficulty of growing in Christlikeness, the disappointment we feel at “failing,” the ridicule we receive (or think we will receive) from others, the discomfort of doing new things in new ways. It’s worth it because God, as our designer, knows better than we how we should live. So when we let the Spirit lead, he always leads us down “the right paths.” It’s also worth it because others are tired of being in bondage to their sinful patterns and we can show them how, with God’s help, they can be free and victorious.
If you feel like, in your sanctification process, you are stumbling, off-balance, self-conscious, and (simply put) “failing,” that’s ok. It’s part of the process. But another part of the progress is getting back up, recognizing that progress can be painful, asking God to help you, and continuing to walk by the Spirit.
One of your best articles yet! Iâm thinking when we do the switch we think more of what Christ thinks of us rather than what others think as our confidence in Him grows. **I think you get the idea though Iâve not said it well. ð
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Thanks! Yes, good thought. Steve Lawson says, “when we please God it does not matter whom we displease.”