My wife Erica and I moved into our house here in Menomonie a couple of summers ago. In the back yard was the remnants of an old brick patio…. totally un-cared for and ridiculously uneven with moss growing out of every crack creating a nice green outdoor carpet look. It wasn’t very pretty but that space had such potential.
Well we had some friends in Chicago who had just re-laid their old brick patio, so I had a brilliant idea. Me and my 8 month pregnant wife would rip up and relay a new brick patio! So that’s what we set out to do. In the heat of those scorching summer days that year, we started ripping out bricks and carrying and stacking them off to the side.
Eventually, every brick was pulled and it was time to prep the foundation for our new patio. Well, thanks to the genius of YouTube, I discovered that in order to do this well, the next step meant digging huge pits and filling and leveling those pits with hundreds of pounds of new rock and sand and doing so with tools and equipment – and really – knowledge that I didn’t have. It was about then when I noticed a slight decrease in my enthusiasm for this project which prompted me to take short break. And when I say short break, that’s code for “a 10 month break.”
I didn’t touch that patio until May of the next year. It was at the encouragement of my wife to make something out of the mess I created in our back yard, that I finally started up the project again. I had some friends help me dig and fill the pit — you know who are… thank you!
I got the tools I needed and I was ready to roll! But as I stood in the middle of this pit I had dug, looking at stacks of different sized bricks and huge piles of gravel and sand, certain bouts of anxiety would rush over me as I asked myself this question:
What Was I Thinking?
I had no idea what I was doing. I never did from the start.
Erica must have been concerned because she knows more than anyone else, that I do not have a single handy bone in my body. And if I’m honest, I knew that too… which brings me right back to my original question, “what was I thinking?”
Now the patio is done and it’s great. We just enjoyed a bon fire out there the other night. It’s not perfect. I know and see all the wonky parts of that thing… and people tell me they think it has “character”–well we all know what that means! It was definitely a DIY project from a guy who had no tools, no idea what he was doing, and different sized bricks. But it’s done. And now that it is, I can only look back and ask myself that same question, “What was I thinking?”
The truth is, I wasn’t thinking. I knew how worthless I was at this kind of thing. But I just started doing. Have you been there before? Have you been in the middle of something, or made it to the other side only to find yourself asking that same question? Please tell me you have. I’m guessing you have, but if I can, I want to take this a step further.
I believe that in areas of our life that are far more important than home improvement, many of us are looking to start something over again—a relationship, a new job, a new career, a sober life, or just a new school year with the kids. Maybe we want to start over because of a decision or a series of decisions that we made which left us wondering, “What was I thinking?” And like me, the answer is probably, “I wasn’t… or at least not very clearly…. I just started doing and the mistakes weren’t far behind.” And the bummer part is, I don’t think we learn from our mistakes…at least in the area that matter the most.
We learn from our mistakes in the areas that matter least… like auto correct mistakes on our smart phones, spell check on the computer or our putting stroke on the greens. But too often we repeat our mistakes in areas of life that matter most… the same financial mistakes, the same dating or relationship mistakes, the same addiction mistakes, the same parenting mistakes, the same career mistakes, and the list goes on. We just jump right back into doing, without addressing that question, “what was I thinking?”
And here’s the problem with that. The problem is: If you think the way you always think, you’ll do what you always do. And that’s not helpful when you’re trying to ensure that next time is better than last time. So if we’re wedging ourselves into some tough situations in life because we weren’t thinking to clearly, then clearly it’s our thinking that needs to be addressed. And the great thing is, the letters that make up what we call the Bible, address the way we think.
In fact, one of the most well know writers is a man named Paul, and he writes very specifically – addressing the way we think for the impact it will have on how we live. So we begin in Romans 12:1-2. Here’s what Paul says:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. This is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. – Romans 12:1-2
He’s saying, do not let yourself be shaped and molded by the people and the behaviors you see around you. Plain and simple. Offer ourselves as a sacrifice to God. In those days they sacrificed animals to God – so the people in those days understood what Paul was saying when he said to offer themselves as a “living sacrifice.” He’s challenging them (and us) to offer their way of life as a sacrifice to God, and to do that, they need to stop conforming to what the world dictates is proper living. Instead, conform to what God says is proper living.
Conforming Gets Us to the Point of, “What Was I Thinking?”
We’re at the starting line all over again because we got to a place where we were asking “what was I thinking?” And we said the answer is often, “I wasn’t.” So when were not really thinking and we just start doing, we start doing like we see everybody else doing.
We spend like they spend. We date like they date. We talk like they talk. We watch what they watch. We treat people like they treat people. We interact with our kids like they interact with their kids. When we just pick up our feet and let the wind take us wherever, we just end up looking like everyone else around us and we begin to conform to the patterns in the world around us.
Those patterns have that kind of pull. And so we just become a mold, a cookie cutter, no different than the person on our left or on our right. Same fear, same worries, same debt, same struggling marriage, same kids that don’t want to be around, same conflict at work.
Paul is saying, don’t conform to those patterns. Don’t let yourself just get unknowingly sucked in. Don’t just be like everyone else around. Instead he says, but be transformed.
Be something different. Be something new, something unique, something other than just the same old mold like everyone else who has just been sucked in to the pattern of the world around them. So Paul’s urging to be transformed is aimed at addressing the way you live. Paul is saying, change the way that you live. Don’t just be like everyone else. And then he tells you how.
Starting Over Begins Here
He says be transformed by the renewing of your mind – renewing the way that you think.
You see, the way that you think has an impact on what you do. So you have to change the way you think. And when we put this together, here is what we learn… here’s the bottom line:
When you change the way you think, you change the way you live!
That’s how you become transformed, not simply conformed. When you change the way you think, you change way you live. A new orientation in your thinking leads to a new orientation in your behavior. That’s what you want, new behavior… new living, new circumstances in your life… so you need new thinking.
That’s what re-newing our mind is all about. To renew means to restore. To take something that was old and make it new again. Think of it as restoring a beat up, old car.
One definition of the actual word Paul used said renewing means, renovating. Think about renovating an old house. Both of these definitions give a perfect example of what renewing is all about. Whether you’re restoring an old car or renovating an old house, you’re taking what is old and making it new again.
But here’s the thing—and clearly I’m not the expert on restoring anything to brand new state—let’s not revisit the brick patio incident – but I know enough to know that you can’t put on what is new until you get rid of what is old. So in my next post, we will begin looking at getting rid of the old and bringing in the new.
If you don’t want to wait for that next post, you can listen to the entire message in podcast form, here! Otherwise, be sure to check back for part 2 of this blog post soon!