And no, not the money-in-the-pocket sort of "change". I'm talking about the much more difficult to come by "CHANGE". Real change. Heart change. Change of direction. Or as some would say, change of trajectory.
You know, you sit on your comfy little couch, with your comfy little food in your tummy, your comfy little stove warming you up, and your comfy little fuzzy socks on your feet, playing Angry Birds. That sort of change of trajectory, the kind that gets the little angry birdies to do their job properly so you can move on to the next level. And the next, and the next. That kind of change of trajectory, right?
No, I'm talking about Impossible Change.
You know the kind; it's the ones we hear in so many cliche's: "Once a thief, always a thief.", "You can't change a tiger's stripes." and so on.
Like the Sugar Maple trees in the woods around our home. They look like completely different creatures in the different seasons. Perhaps the tree is being dishonest since it is not showing all sides of itself at all times and to all people. Perhaps we cannot look to it and see the Glory of its Maker at all since it does so very much changing, over and over and over again?
Here in America especially we are infatuated with the endless possibilities before us. We don't want to be tied down, corralled into a certain path or a certain lifestyle or a lifelong partner we're committed to for our entire lives! "Give us Change!", we yell. Or at least, "Give us the opportunity to change ourselves when it suits us."
And don't try to take that freedom away, lest you want the wrath of fractured relationships and hard feelings to mar your day.
On the other side of the coin, we're also obsessed with the "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.", mentality. I can change on a whim, for any purpose I see fit, YOU, however, will NEVER change. Thus, I can't deal with you any more. Goodbye*.
*cue slamming door.
So much is our society wrapped up in these thoughts that if you are perceived as being a "doormat" not only does your IQ go down by 30 points but your entire ability to be seen as a reasonable, productive, valuable member of society and other relationships is shattered.
How can you let them treat you like that? Why don't you just walk away? LOVE must be tough. You must have low self-esteem. You must be gullible. You must be stupid. You must have no idea of what your true worth is in God's eyes or you just simply wouldn't be in this position. People treat you like you let them treat you.
In other words, There. Is. No. Excuse.
There is no excuse. No one changes. Not REALLY.
Isn't it? There are classes all over the place and TV shows about people reinventing themselves. Complete transformations! The Biggest Loser! The Apprentice! Go back to school and get your degree through night classes! It doesn't matter if you're 20 or 80!
And yet... perhaps the real problem is that we've simply stopped believing in true change. We've become cynical. We feel powerless to actually change ourselves, hence the reality shows to get people moving. We look at each other and think, I can't change who I am (and maybe I don't even want to) and you can't change who you are, so let's just call it quits. We've written off everyone in our lives that hurt us without looking back - because they'll never change.
Maybe, just maybe, we should look out our windows this month, as the wind blows the leaves from the golden trees and rethink this just a little. Yes, the Sugar Maples didn't turn into Frasier Firs, but the changes that did occur are no less real. They've gone from blending into the forest full of green to great golden orbs of light, each one with its very own shade of yellow, orange, or red. But naming the colors themselves does justice neither to the sight that welcomes us as we step outside nor to the Creator of each leaf, each branch, each distinct shade of golden light.
Perhaps we should reread the verse in the Bible that we think only speaks of forgiveness. Maybe it speaks a little more about losing our cynicism towards people:
"Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?". Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven."
Shall we keep then a literal account of every wrongdoing? Every offense? Every hurt feeling, or just every time the person broke one of the commandments and it affected you? Just holding our breath while we wait for the ticker to hit 490.
Or maybe Jesus was speaking a little bit about not losing that belief that someone could change. Maybe He didn't want us to write off people, cut them out of our lives, or shut our hearts away under lock and key so quickly.
Maybe we should dwell a little more on this verse: "But Jesus looked at them and said to them, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." and a little less on exactly what everyone around us needs to do to implement the "right" changes in their lives.
Even then, while dwelling on that verse, our focus should not be on the change itself, but rather the security in knowing your value and worth to the One who made you who you are. You are maybe a leopard who can't change his spots, or a chameleon who changes their spots every 30 seconds. God made you who you are and the price He paid for your life says it all. No offense or hurt feelings should shake that conviction within your own soul. But I'll write more about that later (if I can get my head wrapped around it).
He paid it for your life. Not so He can change you, but because He loves you. The change comes with the knowledge of that love. Not by convincing yourself that you need to do it or by convincing someone else they need to stop doing x,y, and z.
Stop trying to change other people, and stop trying to change yourself. No matter what the motivation is, it won't be enough. You can't do it. Only He can.
Like the butterfly and the Maple tree, one thing that we can be sure of is that the result will be breathtaking!
"Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ."
**verses quoted, in order of posting: "Matthew 18:21-23; 19:26, Philippians 1:6