"Challenger Der" cannot be accomplished alone

Dan Rowlison 
Pastor at First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) California

Dan Rowlison Pastor at First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) California

Well, we’re two weeks into this significant change, whatever it may be. By now you have made slight adjustments to your initial plan. You’ve had some minor hiccups but nothing too serious. If this is your first time “making a change,” let me encourage you to revel in it. I learned many years ago that human beings can sustain ANY change for six weeks. Alcoholics call it a “white-knuckle” sobriety. It’s sheer will power, hang on by your fingernails until you can’t stand it any longer, grit your teeth and get through it, change. The problem is that it only lasts six weeks; after that, unless you have made some serious adjustments in your lifestyle, it will collapse in failure.

Honestly, failure in the face of greatly desired change does not seem fair to us; but increasing determination will not change the weakness in our character that is causing our failure and must change with us.

After numerous attempts at change, some meeting with limited success but most with frustrating disappointment; in spite of our strongest efforts and conscientious dedication, we meet again with failure. As our attempts to change become more frantic, we turn to more and more desperate measures. The “diet” is discarded in favor of something desperate like starvation or diuretics and laxatives; even vomiting. The sobriety gives way to binge drinking; “temporary” alcoholism followed by another six weeks of white-knuckle sobriety.

We slowly begin to compromise our dreams in favor of what we can actually get done, or what I used to call “reality.” Until finally, we realize we have nothing left. We don’t know what to do or how to do it. Even if we knew, we don’t have the resources to get the job done or we don’t know how to use those resources effectively. Eventually we reach the point where we are forced to admit, we’re beaten, whipped, defeated.

One of the hardest realizations we will ever face is “I can’t do what I must do.” It is at this point that despair sets in and we begin to question whether the change we seek is worth the effort required of us to make it. I call this the “Challenger Deep” of the soul. Others call it “hitting rock bottom.”

As I understand it, the Challenger Deep is the deepest known point in the Pacific Ocean with a depth of somewhere between 35,755 - 36,201 ft. It is considered the lowest point on earth piercing the ocean depths farther than Mt. Everest pierces the sky.

In this “Challenger Deep” of the soul, we question everything. Do I really want to change? Is this change even possible? Do I have what it takes? Is this change worth pursuing further? Can I live with myself the way things were? Do I have to change? Why doesn’t the world just accept me the way I am? Maybe the world is wrong and I’m right?

Let’s take a sidetrack, for a moment, regarding the perceptions of “the world.” First, if you’re waiting for the “world” to “accept” you, don’t hold your breath! This world has a funny way of changing its mind faster than you can change yourself (it’s far easier to change your mind than your behavior). Second, personal change is just that, personal. In the midst of your struggle to change yourself, does it really matter what anyone else thinks? If you attempt to change yourself and fail, it is not the fault of the “world.” It doesn’t care if you change or not. Let’s get back on track.

Hitting “rock bottom” is the realization that you must change while at the same time reaching the conclusion that you…can’t…change. Recognizing your inability will produce one of two responses. Either you will ask for help, which can be a humbling experience or you will believe that, since you can’t do it, it can’t be done. This latter choice involves a great deal of pride by assuming that you are the ultimate power for change in your life and having failed, there is no one greater who could accomplish the task.

The Bible tells a story in the book of Matthew, chapter 18, of a time when Jesus was asked “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus called a little child and had him to stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

I would suggest in this instance that becoming like a child is to recognize our inabilities and be humble in the acceptance of our limitations. Hard reality will teach us that there are some changes that we cannot accomplish. Only our arrogance would tell us that those changes can’t be accomplished by ANYONE. Failure on my part is not equal to impossibility. It is at this point that “attitude” again becomes critically important to change.

If you respond to your inability with the humbleness of a child, the process of change can continue. If you respond with pride, then the process of change is stopped. If you are not able to accept your limitations, then I invite you to stop reading at this point. Your “Challenger Deep” of the soul is not yet deep enough and I have nothing to say that you wish to hear. Recognizing your own inabilities must produce humility so that you may seek the help you need.

Significant changes, lasting changes in your lifestyle cannot be accomplished alone. We all need help. Next week we will look at those sources of help. I leave you to ponder the words of an old song, “There’s a light at the end of the darkness, so look up when you are down and try to believe. Sometimes we have to be knocked down to make us look upward. I was looking up through the bottom, when it finally shined on me.” (Light at the End of the Darkness, Larry Gatlin, 1973)

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