I used to think that God wouldn’t force Himself into a relationship where He wasn’t wanted, that we had a choice about whether or not to follow Him. Later I was persuaded that we always default to not wanting God unless He does something in us to change that default and enable us to actually want to be with Him. Now I find myself questioning how that belief accounts for real people making real choices and being held responsible for them.
I used to believe the world is a safe and happy place, unless I didn’t get my way. When tragedy struck people I loved and when our daughter was born so sick, that optimism began to dissolve into skepticism, some days fatalism. I began living in anticipation of the next shoe dropping, and it was clearly a millipede, not a biped. Today, I know we live in a broken world, but we also have a part to play in repairing it. I wrestle with how to raise my kids with a healthy and balanced perspective, and I wonder if it’s possible to grow up without having your bubble burst like mine was.
I’m still changing.
I used to believe God spoke the world into being in six twenty-four-hour days no more than 10,000 years ago. Now I have learned more about the world and the universe we’re in, and I have to admit that far more time is involved. When I look at the Bible, I see God allowing very time-consuming processes. But I dread discussions about beginnings (the same way I dread discussions about endings).
People can be mean and insulting toward dissenters. We haven’t learned how to discuss and disagree with one another without becoming angry and attacking those with whom we disagree. And we don’t know what to do with someone who used to hold one view and now holds to another.
I’ve noticed that while I accept and expect that I will change over time (I cannot deny the very real changes over the first 35 years of my life), I either resist change in others, deny it, or despair of it. Of course, it’s all based on my own beliefs – if someone is changing away from my personal conclusions, I fight against it or deny that it has taken place. If someone disagrees with me, I often despair that they will ever change.
Change takes time.
I learned many lessons grieving my daughter’s death, and I’ve discovered that those lessons apply to every part of life.
- Allow each other to have unique experiences. Grief and life are very similar – everyone processes and moves through it differently. We take different paths, we feel things to different degrees, and we move at varying paces. Conflict arises when you refuse to give one another permission to be unique.
- Expect change. As our experience broadens and as we learn more about the world, about people, and about ourselves, we must change. It is abnormal for someone to remain the same, even though we write it in yearbooks as kids.
- Don’t expect change.You can’t bank on someone changing a certain way, at a certain speed, or within a certain time. You can’t force it, and if you do, it will most likely backfire. Changing minds cannot be rushed or forced. Any change of position, conviction, or belief is a big deal and should be approached with great care, considered thought, and time. We should take the time to think things through, do the research, and weigh the risks and benefits.
- Expect the unexpected. Unfortunately, we don’t always have the luxury of time. Sometimes we are confronted with a bald-faced reality that forces us to jettison some previously-held opinion immediately. It can be terrifying to experience and requires time after the fact to sort out what it all means.
For example: I used to believe that when God promises to protect us, He means that certain things won’t happen to us. Some of those things happened to me and my family. I had no choice but to jettison that belief – it’s clearly false. But it had massive ramifications that have taken years to sift through. I found myself on the unsteady ground of possibilities like What if God isn’t real? What if I’m not really one of God’s people? What if God isn’t good? What if God can’t protect me after all? It felt like if I made one false move, the entire mountain could cave in. Still does, some days.
As we maneuver through life and change with one another, our overriding theme must be gentleness. We are fragile, especially in the midst of change. Let us extend the patience and love to others that we hope to receive when it’s our turn.
How can we live with one another as we change? How can we love each other through those changes?