What do you believe about a person's ability to change?
Perhaps you're thinking about people in your life, the ways you have seen them change - or not. Maybe it's the reflection in the mirror staring back at you, causing you to wonder if change is truly possible, feeling stuck in sin and old habits. But, none of this may occur to you, and you hold onto the saying that "you can't teach an old dog new tricks."
There's an element of hope that infiltrates what we think about change.
A colouring book that's scribbled on across the cover, half the pages used up, isn't so appealing to my little girl. It looks as if it's done for. But when I tear out the used pages, remove the cover, suddenly she sees a blank slate to fill in, and it becomes "new" again.
We may feel tired, or exhausted. It can be hard to even see the possibility of change, especially in challenging situations, or difficult relationships. We may begin to believe that change is not possible, because the cover seems worn and the pages tattered.
I've fallen into that trap before, losing hope for things to be different, for me to be different, that I begin to wonder if it's really even true.
My readings this week in 'The Developing Mind' for my counselling class, Daniel Siegel writes that, “recent findings in the field of neuroplasticity reveal that the human brain remains open to changing in response to experience throughout the lifespan.”
The scientific findings tell us that our brains continue changing, that throughout the whole of life, we are created to continue learning, responding and growing.
Brain science is telling us something that Scripture has always known, change is possible.
So, what does Scripture teach us about change?
We have been changed.
Sharing stories in our African village was a popular pastime. I would take a turn telling a Bible story to the women, as they braided hair, or shucked corn. But many times, the story would land without any response or understanding of what I had just said.
Then, there was a woman whose family had put their faith in Jesus. She became hungry for the Word of God, so I met with her to share stories of Scripture. What an amazing contrast to watch her eyes light up with understanding, the curiosity and longing to learn more.
It wasn’t my language abilities that had changed, it was the change God had made inside her.
For those who love and follow Jesus, a massive change has already happened! We have been taken from the kingdom of darkness and put into the kingdom of God. Paul writes that, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come” (2 Cor 5:17), what amazing words! To know that we have been changed at the core of our soul because of the grace and mercy of Christ.
We are being changed.
There’s a flower garden in my front yard, of perennial plants that, usually, come to life year after year. I don’t always know which ones will come back, so anticipation builds as springtime arrives, watching the stems grow and buds develop.
Change is a slow process. that unfolds through daily choices.
Like the flowers, we too go through the process of growth, navigating change in our own lives. We participate as the Holy Spirit moves inside us by means of grace- the spiritual disciplines- prodding us toward daily choices of confession and repentance of our sin, of purpose and intentionality in our walk with Him, and of acts of love to be shared as we serve others.
“Our growth in sanctification is directly related to our growth in faith because our growth in faith is closely related to our faithfulness. The more faithful we are, the more sanctified we become. We must work hard to strengthen our faith.” RC Sproul
Paul reminds Timothy that “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16), through the power of God’s Word, we learn and grow, as our new self is being “renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Col 3:10).
Our daily choices, where our time and attention is spent, will impact our growth, and our faith.
We will be changed.
For me, most times, this process of sanctification doesn’t happen as quickly as I would like it to. I’d really rather just be perfect already, to avoid the humility of confession and repentance, and shortcut past all the hard stuff in life.
But, what I long for and desire more, is Jesus. If that means submission and surrender, as I’m caught in my own sin and struggling through circumstances, I can know that it is doing something in me. No, not by my own strength or my own power, but His, and His alone. I need to be willing, though, to surrender and take the steps of obedience toward Him.
And, one day, all things will be made new again, wholly and completely. A day that I long for, because true perfection will arrive.
The ability to change is what the Gospel is all about. A broken, sinful people and a powerful, loving God who redeems and restores.
Today, the choice is before us. How we will choose to live. In the words of Jacques Phillippe,“Without concerning ourselves about the past or the future, we can decide to believe today, place all our trust in God today, love God and neighbor today. Whether our good resolutions produce success or failure, next day we can begin again, not relyi