“I know my wife. She will never change!”
Feel free to modify the sentence to fit your situation: “I know my (husband, mother, son, boss…) and he/she will never change!”
No matter whose name appears, the message is still the same – based on my observations and the failure of all my appeals and actions, I have come to the conclusion that a significant person in my life cannot and will not ever change. Then, based on that conclusion, I come up with a strategy to cope with the hopeless situation in which I find myself.
Here is the unfortunate result of embracing that conclusion – should, for whatever reason, that person actually start to change, I will totally miss it or completely discredit it. Because I have an intentional inability to believe change could occur, my words to and about that person will probably sound like this: “She’s just pretending to get back in my good graces,” or “We’ve been down this path before; it will only last for a week or two,” or “Wow, suddenly she has ‘found God’ and now I supposed to believe there will be a difference?” Sadly, the destructive nature of those comments tend to make the person who is really undergoing change come to the conclusion that it is really not worth the effort, no one will ever believe them, so why keep trying, after which they revert to previous behaviors (to which I triumphantly respond, “See, I told you it was not for real!”).
However, people DO change…..I did.
Please don’t misread me here. I am a realist. I understand that not everyone makes themselves available for change and also that some folks do play the game of, “Look, I’ve changed,” when they really haven’t. But my concern here is that we don’t limit God’s ability to work in a person’s life purely because we have, in our own infinite wisdom, come to the conclusion that it could never occur.
I have shared in previous updates a bit of my own testimony and how I made the first seven years of my marriage to Debbie pretty horrible. I clearly remember sitting over a cup of coffee a year or two ago and asking her what was the thing that gave her hope that I would change so she could persevere all those years. She looked at me and said, “Actually, I did not think you would ever change. I was confident that if you were to let God get a hold of you that incredible things would happen. But I did not stay because I thought you would change.” Hmmmm….she was committed to stay but had surrendered her need for me to change.
Okay, that caught me by surprise, but I wanted to know about her reaction to what happened during our one incredible session of marriage counseling. You see, in the presence of the Holy Spirit and a pastor led by the Spirit, I had a life-changing, light bulb turned on experience that afternoon; I knew I had changed! “So I bet you were pretty excited when I had my ‘defining moment’ in the pastor’s office that day, huh?” Geez, she whacked me again. “No, not really. I did not actually believe you had changed.” What?! Wait a minute. I had just had an interaction with God that would radically change the rest of our lives together….and you missed it?
Thankfully, Debbie had a steadfast faith in the Lord, had surrendered her “need” for me to change, and over all those years never said disparaging things about me. However, here is the point of the story: Just because Debbie did not believe it would happen and just because she did not notice when it did happen does not mean it did not happen – but I knew and over time the reality of what the Lord had done in my life played out for all to see.
Romans 12:2 talks about “being transformed by the renewing of your mind.” God is still in the business of changing the way we think and believe…and that is transforming, no matter what conclusions we have come to.