Don’t change boats, change yourself

Don't change boats

pawpaw67, Flickr

Ever feel like a change in circumstances would make life easier? You’re not alone.

Basil wanted to find a place where it was quiet, where he could leave behind the craziness and commotion of life and focus on his relationship with God. (Sound familiar?) So he moved from the city to the country, hoping to still the waters and lower the noise. But it didn’t work. Quieter circumstances failed to quiet his mind.

“[W]e have derived no great benefit from our present solitude,” Basil wrote to a friend, explaining how the move had let him down.

It’s a common story and we all have our own version. When situations disappoint and experiences fall short of expectations, we think that changing our circumstances will fix the problems, like we can just discard and get a better hand. But it doesn’t always—or even usually—work that way.

Basil in the city can’t focus on God. Change the circumstances, and Basil in the country still can’t focus on God. Why? The truth is that the person matters more than the place. Remember that line from Bukaroo Banzai? “Wherever you go, there you are.”

Basil and Buckaroo are on the same page. “I am like those who go to sea,” Basil continued in his letter, “and because they had no experience in sailing are very distressed and sea-sick, and complain of the size of the boat as causing the violent tossing; and then when they leave the ship and take to the dinghy or the cock-boat, they continue to be sea-sick and distressed wherever they are; for their nausea and bile go with them when they change.”

The nausea is the problem, not the boat. The view might be different, maybe even better, but the change won’t help the real issue, which is us. Said Basil, “[W]e carry our indwelling disorders about with us, and so are nowhere free form the same sort of disturbances.”

If a change in circumstances isn’t the solution, and it usually isn’t, then we need to turn inward and work on ourselves. Basil says that looks like unlearning the things that foul up our minds and hearts and earnestly practicing the faith through prayer and meditation on the Scriptures; this is what will eventually reorder those indwelling disorders that we drag around.

When faced with joylessness and frustration, we should be quicker to fault ourselves than our circumstances. St. Paul talks about being content in all situations, whether in riches or in poverty. That’s the mark of someone who is comfortable serving in any boat that God assigns.

About Joel J. Miller

I'm the author of Lifted by Angels, a look at angels through the eyes of the early church. Click here for more about me or subscribe to my RSS here.

  • Matt Baugher

    Great post, Joel. Thank you!

  • Kirk

    Any blogger that quotes Buckaroo Banzai gets added to my Google Reader. Great post, Monkey Boy! “Stay in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything.”

    • http://joeljmiller.com Joel J. Miller

      The real challenge was getting Buckaroo and St. Basil in the same post, but all truth is God’s truth.

  • http://www.therextras.com Barbara

    Changing self is a true and basic tenet of improving one’s life. But I also have seen the benefit of changing environment for helping people see the changes needed or bridge to those changes. Perhaps the environment gives too much distraction to realize the changes needed.

    • http://joeljmiller.com Joel J. Miller

      That’s a fair point. A change in circumstances can force or encourage a change in perspective, which in turn can lead to beneficial self-examination and personal reformation.

  • http://www.skingsly.blogspot.com Kingsly

    Often we want to change our circumstances but we are the one who need to change…That’s a wonderful post..Thanks for writing!

  • http://www.curtharding.com Curt Harding

    Great post Joel. I would only take issue with your title. I have found that if you don’t change boats you may never look inward. I plan to change boats over and over and over again. Otherwise, I find the sharks get wise to each boat’s holes.


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