I’ve been thinking a lot about change lately.
In general, I like change. I like the adventure of it and exploring the unknown. I love learning new things. I’m not a huge fan of routine, and I get easily bored. During a twenty-year period, I once moved seventeen times between three different states and two countries. I’ve changed my hair color so many times I’ve lost count. Even my moods change frequently (The good news is these moods are like the weather in New England. If I don’t like my current mood, I wait fifteen minutes, and it will change).
A rolling stone gathers no moss, right? Ok, well maybe she gains a few pounds if she doesn’t roll fast enough to get her heart rate going…
What would change look like in a life like mine? What would I change about my circumstances or my situation that I haven’t already tried? What would change look like in yours?
I think some of us can view change as a kind of savior. We subtly believe if this one thing in our life would finally change, then we would be in a good place. When the change does come, we can run for weeks or even months on a “change high.” Life has never been better; our mood lifts and we feel brand new. Things are looking up, and we feel like we can take on the world. Then routine sets in, and the change junkie seeks something new.
On another side is the camp that fears change, especially when we are on the receiving end of an unwelcome and uninvited change. We get nervous about change as this might signal the end of a good season. We might fearfully anticipate change as a complete, sudden overhaul of relationship or as having a negative impact on our circumstances. A loved one passes. A life-changing diagnosis of chronic illness is received. A job is lost. Bad experiences with change can shape our view of future change and make us apprehensive.
A third group looks holistically at change, seeing both the positive and negative aspects of it. After all, it’s just change, and change will come again when one season ends, and another begins. We realize there can be blessing and sometimes heartache in change, and we choose to embrace change. We also realize that sometimes we are the ones who need to change. We look for the good and remain grateful in all circumstances, trusting God with the outcomes.
Once we accept that a change may be necessary, what steps can we take to work with intentionality toward lasting, positive change? Here are a few steps I’ve found helpful. This is not necessarily a linear process, and I sometimes find myself revisiting specific steps, adjusting as I go.
- Survey the landscape – What in your life needs to change? What could change for the better? Do any relationships need to change? How so? Does anything in your own character need to change?
- Pray about the situation – Seek God’s will in all things. Be humble and thankful. Test what you feel and hear. Is it in line with what you know about God? Is it in line with what the Bible teaches? How does this change line up with how you are wired? Does making this change help you to love God and love others well? Does it honor God, honor others above yourself, and honor who you are in Christ?
- Observe your feelings – What comes up as you think through change? Possibilities? Anxiety? Panic? Fear? Anticipation? Excitement?
- Examine your heart – Why do you think these feelings come up? Is it a lack of gratitude, an unholy discontent, or an awareness of the need for change? Is there any life experience-good, bad, or otherwise-which might be influencing your perspective? Is it the idea of letting go of something important to you? Or perhaps a relationship you are afraid of losing?
- Seek wisdom and guidance – A good practice here is to talk it over with your spouse, a trusted friend, family member or even a counselor. Long-time relationships can be helpful as they offer someone who knows your history, beliefs, values, important relationships, and the events that have shaped you.
- Voice the need for change – Write down what needs to change and why. Read it aloud to yourself and others. Seek wisdom and discernment. If change is necessary in a relationship, communicate your needs clearly and lovingly to help others understand what’s going on.
- Choose to make a different decision Pause, breathe, and respond in a new way. This step can be a stumbling block for many because change can have both good and bad consequences. While I am no expert here, I have found it helpful to practice with little changes to adjust my perspective. Take a new route to a familiar place rather than a well-worn path. Try a new sport or a game. Read a book you wouldn’t normally pick up. In our information-saturated age, give yourself the gift of twenty minutes of solitude and silence. Practice makes nearly perfect, and these simple changes can build confidence in making changes that may have more far-reaching consequences.
Change is inevitable and often necessary. We can choose to embrace or to fear it. But change with intentionality can produce lasting, positive change in us. Change can also set you free to more fully become the person God intended you to be from the beginning of creation.
As I was writing this, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 crossed my mind, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
As I reflect on the changes I want to make in this season, this for me is perhaps the most important and only change necessary.
What change would you like to see in yourself or your circumstances in the current season you are in?
Photo credit: Boonyachoat on istock.com.