“It is easier to act yourself into a new way of thinking than to think yourself into a new way of acting” -Millard Fuller
Not only is this sassy little statement pithy…it actually WORKS. This is one of my favorite quotes from one of my faith heroes and recipient of The Presidential Medal of Freedom: Millard Fuller. He was not only a witness to but change agent for those in abject poverty.
Fuller was a millionaire lawyer who climbed the pinnacle of business success, then at 29, turned his faith-fueled business acumen into Habitat for Humanity. After building 200,000 homes world-wide, Fuller was heartbreakingly asked to step down from an organization he birthed and served for 46 years until his 70’s. Despite this crushing blow, Millard persevered, championing a new organization: Fuller Center for Housing until his death in 2009.
Millard Fuller just kept moving forward. After years of sacrifice, service to others and devotion to “The Theology if The Hammer,” he was asked to resign. After giving his life away was told, “We’ll take it from here.” I do not know all the details, only the ones which I have read from his perspective but I do know this: Millard kept moving forward in faith when heartbroken.
My family met Mr. Fuller in 2007 at a marriage conference Florida. John and I proved utter failures at wide-eyed staring each other in the face for ten minutes without laughing. Sorry, people, we are just not that couple. I opened one night’s event with a few minutes of comedy and Mr. Fuller brought the house down with signature Southern story telling style. His obsession to eradicate homelessness, improve the lives of the poor and provide a meaningful vehicle for others to serve provided a new way of thinking for over a million people.
After his speech, he graciously signed our Building Materials for Life books and said he’d catch up with us in Allendale, the location of his Shreveport Fuller Center for Housing Build that Fall. To my shock, Mr. Fuller invited me to lead the work crew devotional one morning in Allendale. As if I had anything at all to say. He was incredibly sweet and kind. Just as one would imagine a soul intimately acquainted with Jesus might be.
My faith life has been profoundly impacted by the unflappability of Millard Fuller. I am challenged to try and improve the situation of those caught in Pay Day Lending Schemes and even those who just need a simple winter hat at the bus stop. I want to help everyone but know that to go the distance, organizations must take on root causes of systemic poverty and involve people in their own solutions. Fuller required HFH families to go through a rigorous interview process, invest sweat equity in their homes and pay for the homes (without being charged interest.)
Meeting this man briefly and knowing him better through his books informs what it means to me to follow Christ. To care for other people when it seems scary or totally awkward (me at all times.) His example calls me to at least try to partner with those waist-deep overwhelming struggles of life when I would rather just drink my coffee, paint my pictures and eat Beth Watkins Cheese Wafers la-la-la style.
There is evidence that acting ourselves into motion (caring for others, deciding to be happy, stepping away from the crack-like pull of the cheese wafer) actually is the behavioral tail which wags the dog.
From a February 2017 Huff Post Article: This notion is prevalent among behaviorists and much of the today’s therapeutic community. Indeed, in the treatment of depression and addiction, clients are often urged to to practice “opposite action” – that is to say, to behave in ways that run counter to what they “feel like” or to what their present state or mood urges them to do or not do.* Full Huff Post Article here
Every human who has every walked upon Mother Earth has faced disappointment. Your smiling Rabbi, your spunky cousin, your wise counselor, your perfect room mate.
-If you feel stuck in jello take a brisk walk around your cubicle and keep the co-workers guessing.
-Feeling cynical about religion? Read Jesus’ words (any & all) and serve the first person you see who needs a boost (even if that person is in your family.)
-Feel bitter about how behind you feel compared with others? Go to a cancer center and volunteer or at least do a hard reset on your life.
Forward, forward, always forward.