It’s so easy to get hung up on hoping someone else changes. You know, somehow we feel we can see the things someone we love is doing that aren’t wise, the things that over time will wreak havoc in their lives, the things we fight them about that we believe would make their lives better. And we hope they get it. We hope they listen and we pray they realize.
And we can get in this stuck place with our spouses, kids, friends or family members where we keep pushing or hoping or fighting for them to understand, to wake up, to come to an understanding, to make a change.
And if you have ever been in this kind of place, that is where I have been lately. In fact, as a mom to young adults, this is a place I visit often. And I had a BIG realization recently, that it’s not my kids who need to change. It’s me.
It’s not that I’m not seeing correctly. It’s not that my insight is wrong. It’s not that my gut and discernment are off kilter in regards to what I’m noticing. It’s that I have to allow space for process. It’s that I have to let learning lessons teach. It’s that I have to make room for human development.
I can sit here and bang my head on a wall trying to get someone else to do what I think they “need” to do. I can beg them to see what I see. I can argue with them in the hopes they make the change that will protect them from failing or falling. But sometimes we have to let people experience what we have.
How did we get wisdom? How did we grow? How did we get to a place where we realized we don’t just believe in God, we need Him? How did we get to a place where we recognized that who we become has a lot to do with who we surround ourselves with?
A lot of what you and I have learned has been through trial by fire. It has been falling and tripping and stumbling and getting back up again and being more cautious next time. A lot of it has been pure agony. The sting of betrayal made us more careful about who we choose to give our hearts to. The ugliness of sin made us not want to drink from that cup again. The folly of chasing greed found us at the bottom of a bankruptcy valley and since we have climbed out of that, we never want to go there again.
We learned, we grew, we developed, we were shaped by mistakes, by learning lessons, by experience. We had to see our gracious and loving God waiting for us when we returned from our wild living. We had to feel His hand reach down and grab us out of a miry pit. We had to go through the fire to be refined. We had to make mistakes and own them and realize the power in humility and the need for wise counsel.
So friend, if we had to go through all that to learn what we have learned, why do we think we can short cut other people’s development and the need for experience in order to learn what they need to learn?
We can hope someone we love changes. Or we can realize we are the ones who need to change. We need to shift. We need to no longer expect people to be where we think they ought to be, but instead meet them where they’re at. Jesus does this. That’s not to say, we don’t express concern. That’s not to say we don’t offer wisdom if God lays it on our hearts to share. That’s not to say we don’t hope for more for them or pray for a different path than the one they walk.
It just means that we shift. We shift to no longer forcing what we know to be true or right for someone else and demand it as though our beliefs ought to be swallowed like a pill. But instead we walk alongside people on the journey. The journey has bumps and bruises, fails and successes, wins and losses. It also has a lot of learning and usually people have to learn first hand. So rather than trying to force feed what you’ve learned, shift from being a teacher who doles out information to being a friend who walks alongside.
Jesus collided with people who were in process and He didn’t give up on them when they denied His invitations. He kept being available, He kept colliding, He kept inviting, He kept speaking, He kept loving. He tells a story of the son who went to his father, demanded the inheritance due him when his father was still alive. His father gave him what he wanted. That’s crazy. His father allowed him to go and figure it out, to learn some things, to fail, to allow the foundation of truth that had already been laid to teach through real life experiences. And it did. That son went and squandered everything he had and found himself in the pig slop thinking “even my father’s servants have it better than this.” This young man had to experience what arrogance and entitlement bring you. He had to go see what slavery freedom to sin brings you. He had to go away from the people who loved him and find himself at the bottom of a pig trough to realize how good he had it at home.
Friend, you and I don’t want to have to do what the father did. But I am afraid and even feel emotional saying this, we might have to. We might have to let the people we love go and learn the hard way. And we might have to be the ones who change, who shift, who bend. We might have to be the ones who let loose those we love into the lessons they need. It was when the father let the son go that the son experienced what he needed to in order to turn his heart back to the father. Instead of beating your head against the wall trying to change someone you love, entrust their journey to Jesus, knowing He is so very loving and gracious, compassionate and good. He is in hot pursuit of those we are worried about and He is the One who will collide and change all of us into who we are meant to become.