Productive, Life-Altering Change can happen when we Make a Decision and Stick With it!
Two years ago a combination of circumstances finally led my good friend, Melanie, to sober up and leave behind 20+ years of drug addiction, domestic violence and spiritual abuse. She made a radical decision and she stuck with it. She started with one giant decision, sobriety, and then through steady, persistent, unromantic plodding she took another step forward, and then another, and another. The ripple effect of her decision towards positive change altered dysfunctional, negative patterns of behavior for an entire family system. She is walking today in victory, an overcomer! But, she will also be the first to tell you she still struggles, daily, with the fallout from the past and the residual pain caused by poor decisions.
If you read my last blog you know that I too was undergoing significant change in my own life. I left California in 1987 with my young family still intact. Before moving to AZ, I heard the Spirit whisper in my heart that I would find in Prescott an oasis. And yet, in fewer than six months after I arrived my life had completely disintegrated. With three small children depending on me I needed to maintain a secure and comforting environment so a nighttime routine was paramount.
The classic, The Little Blue Engine that Could, was a bedtime favorite for my kids. I always loved the “I think I can; I think I can,” tenacity of the little train pulling her load up over the mountain for I found the simple mantra, followed by its conclusion “I thought I could,” a valuable lesson about perseverance and endurance.
I also drew from the amplified translation of Phil. 4:19, “I have strength for all things in Christ who empowers me. I am ready for anything and equal to anything through him who infuses inner strength into me. “
How we need these touchstones in the difficult days for they teach us about longsuffering and energize our will to keep fighting.
I chose to believe in Hebrews 11:1 and fought for it internally and vocalized it externally.
Faith is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not yet seen.
Though my “real world” lay shattered all around, I elevated my faith in the unseen God and hoped for a better future.
A simple knock on the door the next morning was faith’s first manifestation. My neighbor across the street, whom I’d never met, was a real estate agent. She knew nothing of my dire circumstances. She told me about a home for sale that she had looked at the day before that was wheelchair friendly and was happy to show it to me if I was interested.
“Interested?” That was an understatement. My good friend, Sheila, was still lifting me in and out of the ground floor tub. After I had told my husband to leave, I had quickly realized that a rental would never do; I needed a home for my children and I.
The second manifestation of God’s goodness came to me while reading from the book of Isaiah:
Do not call to mind the former things,
Or ponder the things of the past.
Behold, I will do something new,
Now it will spring forth;
Will you not be aware of it?
I will even make a roadway in the wilderness,
Rivers in the desert.
The verse became a touchstone for my life and was chosen for my line of Custom Inspirational Cards.
When I went to check out the home for sale with my neighbor and rolled out onto the back deck, a peace came over me and I heard the Spirit whisper, “This is your oasis.” It wasn’t long before the children and I had moved in, ready to begin a new chapter in our new family system. By then, there was no reconciliation in site for the marriage so I filed for a dissolution.
Resilient Responses toward Change that fueled my resilience:
First, if you find yourself in a season of abrupt change and need to re-direct your life, you must take small incremental steps to succeed (see last months blog where I shared 6 proven ways to bounce back from brokenness by implementing pragmatic, emotional and spiritual change).
Second, when life hits us with unexpected change we can find a new homeostasis through positive psychology. Dr. William Glasser’s book, Choice Theory is a must read in my opinion. (It used to be required reading in grad school but I’m guessing it’s probably been pushed aside in lieu of our societal climate to medicate all human behavior). For me, it is still a favored theory because it puts the onus for change back on us. Dr. Glasser states:
All total behavior is designated by verbs. For example, I am choosing to depress or I am depressing instead of I am suffering from depression or I am depressed. Accepting this axiom is uncomfortable for external control believers…These people think the miserable feeling is happening to them or is caused by what someone else does. As soon as we say, I’m choosing to depress or I am depressing, we are immediately aware it is a choice, and we have gained personal freedom.
For more on Choice Theory
Sometimes Change is a long time coming, like in Melanie’s story or perhaps your own. Teilhard de Chardin once said, we must “trust in the slow work of God.” Father Gregory Boyle, founder of Homeboys Industries, (one of the most effective gang intervention programs in the world) writes about the slow work of God and the unpredictability of when a “homie” will experience the “great turnaround.”
Without a doubt, our greatest frustration and sense of powerlessness comes when we can’t predict the “AHA” moment of radical change for someone we know and love. Only they can determine when their pain and poor life choices become too unmanageable and flip the “great turnaround” switch.
However, our hope is in knowing that there is no force in the world better able to alter anything from its course than Love!
When I first befriended Melanie, she was still living in tremendous pain. I could not understand why she chose to stay. I mean I chose to leave a bad situation as a sit-down Mom with three children five and under and that was damn hard, but I survived; I believed so could she. After several years of judging her, which came from what I thought was a heart of love (I obviously wanted her suffering to cease), I stopped trying to rescue her because I realized it was her choice and hers alone.
The “AHA” moment for me came during a dinner conversation with Melanie. She shared with me that her female friendships were only fair weather friends because eventually they tired of her and the same old sad saga. Somewhere in that moment the no matter what-ness of God’s love prevailed; “Could I love Melanie no matter what?” After I said “yes” to God the relationship completely shifted. I was in her life to love and pray for her. Period.
It still took another two-and-a-half years before Melanie had her own “AHA” moment and implemented change. I just kept on loving.
The slow work of God.
Whether you find yourself experiencing unexpected change, waiting on change, or purposefully planning for change:
Just Make a decision and Stick With it!
“Yet there is one ray of hope: his compassion never ends. It is only the Lord’s mercies that have kept us from complete destruction.Great is his faithfulness; his loving-kindness begins afresh each day.” Lam. 3:22-23
As always, may you find a new mercy today and everyday,
Saturday, May, 16 2020,
Pain, Power & Promise Event
Location and Partner: Prescott Church of the Nazarene
Where is God when all hell breaks loose and what if God doesn’t “fix” it?
Laugh. Cry. Be Inspired.
3 Lives. 3 Stories. 1 Comedian.
Vendors, Raffles and Giveaways, Lunch on site: Sugar Skull Rolling Cafe and Coffee House