The efforts to fix the leaking oil well in the Gulf of Mexico are of course made difficult because the opening to the well lies so deep below the ocean’s surface. The well opening is 5,000 feet below the surface of the ocean and the difficult working conditions at such a depth are what make progress so difficult. If this well had been drilled on land, or in shallow water, the problem certainly would have been fixed by now. There is a lesson in this for all of us in regards to our personal and relational wellness: the deeper the change we try to make or the deeper the wound we seek to heal, the more difficult the process is going to be. Deep-seated habits are the hardest to break--just ask a heavy drinker or a life-long workaholic or a couple that has been bickering for twenty years just how hard it is to change their habits.
Hard does not equal impossible, though. It is possible to change deep-seated problems or habits within ourselves or within our relationships. The mess in the Gulf shows us that three conditions must be present if change is going to happen; a high degree of urgency, patience and perseverance.
Did you notice that once the oil spill began approaching the shores the urgency to fix the problem became much greater? The same principle applies to changing our deep-seated habits. We don’t usually get serious about change until the consequences of our habits become more visible and begin to impact our to day life in a significant way. Taking time to break through denial and honestly assess the effects of our habits can help provide us with the urgency we need to make deeper changes.
The efforts to fix the oil leak have tried our patience and tested the perseverance of those working to solve the problem. We have all shared the same experience when trying to make changes in our long term habits. Most attempts at change, whether personal or relational, are cut short by a lack of patience and/or lack of perseverance. In our fast paced culture today we can easily forget that change that is both real and substantial, takes time.
And yet, how can we not commit to the work it takes to make deep change? The rewards are so great. Just this week, the fact that some real progress was made with the oil leak has brought cautious, but great excitement and relief. Earlier this week I spoke with two people working on deep changes, a young woman who had recently stopped smoking and a man who had recently reconnected with a brother he hadn’t spoken to in ten years. They sounded the same way--both cautiously relieved and excited.
It seems that in both oil work and personal change, working in the depths is both challenging and frustrating at times, but oh, so wonderful when success is finally achieved!