I watched Lefty Kreh demonstrate his casting method at the Renzetti Fly Fishing and Rod Building Fair last Saturday. I’ve seen and heard him before. I’ve read his books and watched his instructional videos. I’ve tried to do what he says, but my casts look nothing like Lefty’s! On Saturday it dawned on me that my inefficiency with a fly rod is due to the way I practice. If I do the wrong things over and over again, wrong patterns are reinforced and become habits. Even when I try to do what Lefty says, the patterns I’ve reinforced feel more natural. To learn to cast well, I’m going to have to unlearn some deeply ingrained patterns.
This may seem like an odd connection, but it struck me that something similar is going on in my life all the time. Having been born again by God’s Spirit, I have a new heart. Having been adopted as a son of God in union with Jesus Christ, I have a new identity. And as the Holy Spirit stirs my mind and heart to believe that God loves me, I have a new motivation and a new power for obeying God. So why is sanctification such a long, gradual process in my life? Why is it taking so long to become more like Jesus? Why do I still struggle with some of the same old patterns of sin that have been there for years?
As with casting with a fly rod, the more I practice doing something wrong, the more natural it feels. After a while, what is wrong feels right. I have reinforced certain sin patterns by years of practice. I’ve become an expert at doing what is wrong. Before there can be any change, I have to see these patterns as sin and I have to desire something different. I need God to stir up a desire to be free from the bondage these particular sins create. I have to unlearn some deeply ingrained beliefs and patterns.
Through the commands and instruction of God’s Word, I am shown the right way to love other people and to love God. I don’t expect change to be quick and easy, but I am confident change is possible because God has promised that He is at work in my life to change my desires and to enable me to do what He commands. He has promised to finish what He started in my life. He is able to do what I can’t do on my own.