This is crazy, but it’s true. You know it is. Sometimes the same people who demand that you change are the ones who erect fences around you when you try to change. With their mouths they say “Change!” but with their actions they say, “Change back!”
This is the biggest reason prophets are not welcome in their own towns.
Sometimes this is the reason young adults move to distant cities, why marriages break up when one partner replaces unhealthy habits with better choices, why promotions skip over the person who is actively trying to prove they are more diligent than they used to be, and why people who are are growing spiritually find they need to leave their old church before they can walk that out.
They are all surrounded by those who demand change but don’t make room for it.
Change is messy. Most people want order and predictability in their relationships. Say, for example, people are used to Molly showing up late, so they tell her the meeting starts at 7 o’clock. When Molly shows up at seven for an event that actually starts at eight, it’s embarrassingly inconvenient. How dare she change?
I did something like this to my husband. As long as I have known him he has ordered his steak well-done. Very well done. We have family jokes about burnt offerings and bovine charcoal on a plate. When we were at a friend’s house for a barbecue I told the grill master my man liked his steak on the edge of charred. I didn’t feel I needed to ask first; I had observed his taste for years ( although steak’s appearance on our menu is an increasingly rare event).
When the platter of steaks arrived at the table my husband said, “I would like the rare T-bone please.” The look of horror on the host’s face as he saw his rare steak land on another person’s plate broke my heart. The exchange of glances between the cook and I, when we realized one of us would have to take the black thing was almost a moment for tears. He felt like he just wasted an expensive cut and I felt betrayed and embarrassed.
The discussion in the car on the way home was the kind of loud one that occurs between couples on the brink of a course change. (I gave up the opinion-less “submissive wife” thing a decade before when I realized it nearly killed me – and our marriage.) His final point (which I did listen to) was, “I am trying to change, but you won’t let me. You think you know me so well and make jokes about my ways but when I try to change you want me to change back so you don’t have to adjust.”
Ouch. But he was right.
How we relate to teenagers is also a good test of how we make room for change. The primary job of adolescents is to discover who they are. Adolescents are frustratingly self-centered because they are supposed to be; they have a job to do – work on themselves. A conciliatory, conforming, unquestioning teenager is merely delaying the process. (I didn’t go through adolescent defining of myself until my thirties – at the same time as my kids. Awkward moments abounded.)
Since a teenager doesn’t yet know who they are they are constantly trying on new roles and personas to see what fits. The only thing they know for sure is that they are not their parents. If you are the parent of a teen in transition hold your most valuable ideals close to your chest because everything is subject to sifting in this process. More than one mother has heard herself say, “I don’t know who you are anymore!” Neither do they.
Our job in leading teens is to set safe, healthy boundaries while providing latitude and unlimited love at the same time -like God does. (No one said it was easy.)
A person growing into their identity in Christ is in a transition phase his or her whole life. Ideas developed in times of selfishness, or fear, or unempowered self-sacrifice, or zealous idealism based on faulty foundations need adjustment. Pride can get in the way of transformation, but, alas, so can the people who know you best. Friends, neighbours, colleagues, relatives, and bosses make their plans based on assumptions that some things, however annoying, are at least consistent .
When Jesus showed up in his home town after stepping into his full identity as the Son of God with demonstrations of power his former neighbours were shocked. Perhaps they also felt embarrassed or betrayed or even disoriented by his unexpected behaviour.
“He [Jesus] came to His hometown and began teaching them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, ‘Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man get all these things?’
And they took offense at Him.
But Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.’
And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.” (Matthew 13:53-58 NASB)
“Is this not the carpenter’s son?” Oh, the burden that one phrase carries.
Is this not the son of the guy who sued everyone in town?
Is this not the daughter of the young mother who dropped out of school at 15?
Is this not the one who is always late?
Is this not the quiet submissive wife who never speaks up?
Is this not the Sunday School teacher who bores everyone to death?
Is this not the crazy guy who lives for the weekend keg party?
Is this not the critical church elder who disapproves of everyone and everything?
Is this not the whining woman who always has something wrong with her?
Is this not the well-known TV evangelist with the iffy theology?
Is this not the son of our enemy?”
“Don’t mess with us! If you change we will have to change. Our opinions painstakingly formed over time will be invalid. Change back!”
If you are seeking to hear the Holy Spirit as he shows you the way the Father sees you, if you are changing as a result of allowing the way you think to be transformed to align with the mind of Christ, don’t be surprised if the folks who were once your greatest supporters are not thrilled at first. Change in you requires change in them. It’s uncomfortable.
If you are encouraging others to step into their destinies give them room to grow. Be flexible. Rejoice with them, especially if they surpass your own progress. They are the new agents of grace in your life and you are now subject to change.