Witnessing Changes

I love this time of year, not because it's getting cold (I HATE to be cold), but because everything becomes so colorful. My backyard has turned my favorite shade of red, thanks to the enormous maple tree shading everything in the rich hue. Plus, the leaves have started to fall, too, so they are covering the ground. It really is pretty.

My husband and daughter and I drove to our sister's house this weekend, where she had invited us to eat home fried chicken and all the fixin's. (She is truly one of the best cooks in the entire world.) The ride was so peaceful for me because I was entranced with the natural beauty of the landscape, the colors so rich and vibrant... gold, orange, red, and the still green of the pines. It all had me transfixed and quietly contemplating.

And as I was witnessing the ever-changing landscape, due completely, no doubt, to the power of God, I began to wonder about the changes in people, and more specifically, why it is more difficult to believe in true changes in the people who are closest to us.

Allow me to explain. When we view a story on television, or read a non-fictional biographical account of a person we do not know who was once "bad" (gang member, murderer, thief, swindler, drug addict.. you get the picture), but then had a life-saving transformation due to the power of Christ and is now a "good" person (gives his time, money and effort to positive things and now makes a difference in the world), we are much more likely to believe that the inner change has actually taken place. We cheer him on. Our eyes get misty with emotion.We LOVE that person!

But when someone in our own lives - a former friend or family member, a coworker, a former spouse - claims to have gone through the same changes, then we don't believe them, and instead continue to view them as the "bad" person.

Why is that? Why do we give up on people we know, and give the benefit of the doubt to people we have never even met? What does that say about us?

I think it has a lot to do with the inability, or perhaps more accurately, the unwillingness to forgive. We were hurt by that person. Someone we love was hurt by that person. We watched that person do bad things, so when we actually witness that same person do good things, we call it "an act" because it is easier to continue to loathe him (or her) than to try to forgive him (or her) and move forward.

A very good friend of mine reminded me that some of the most influential people in the Bible did some really bad things: David, who is second only to Jesus in the number of times mentioned in the Bible, was at one point a murderer and an adulterer; Paul, before being saved and renamed by Christ, imprisoned and killed both male and female Christians as Saul. Most of the "heroes" of the Bible did bad things before (and sometimes even after) they became Godly people. But that's the beautiful thing about God... He uses our weaknesses and failures as a way to make us better. As Romans 8:28 says, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

I know I can't relate to someone whose life seems perfect. The Perfect Person With The Perfect Life. Nope, I don't get it. But someone who has been through hell on earth and still stands strong in the Lord and learned lessons from the fall? Oh yeah, sign me up for that story. Why? Because if he/she can do it, then so can I. And so can you. And whether we choose to believe it or not, so can that person you once knew as "bad."

Maybe it's not an act.

Maybe it's time to forgive. And believe.


rick said…
Hi Linnea -

I don't know how many times in my life that I "thought" exactly what you just wrote in your blog. I have definitely been guilty of giving more creedence to stories I have seen or read about former "bad" individuals ive never met and their new found "new leaf" (albeit famous or infamous ) . Maybe the perfectly framed package that they come in gives it credibility to me .

I have had my share of sustained prejudices against those that have hurt me one way or another .When I was younger, forgiveness was much harder for me. It seems I get a bit wiser every year.

What helped me is the amount of exposure that I have with that individual. In my case , an ex spouse. My marriage with her ended very bitterly and I was extremely hurt by things that she did. For years it left a void and empty space in my heart. I would never in my wildest dreams ever think she could change.

Years later she wrote me a letter, out of the blue but maybe prompted by her mother's death. It was a long conciliatory letter apologyzing to me for everything she did to me back then. She paid me a compliment about me being the best father her daughter could ever have. These were things that I never ever thought she would ever admit to much less flat out tell me .

I didn't respond to her immediately. I was so used her being the "bad" person that I wasn't sure that she really meant it. I theorized that she may have sat down after her mom's funeral, drank one wine too many (although she is not a drinker) and wrote something she really didn't intend to mail.

It was Christmas eve 3 months later when I went to visit my daughter and I saw my ex.I see my ex nearly everytime i go to Michigan to visit my daughter (we "co- grandparent" together.) For the first time in years she gave me a hug . She asked me if I had received her letter. I told I had but wasn't sure if she really meant what she wrote. She understood why I was skeptical but she meant every word she said.

Your blog entry is really making me think. I beleive she has taken the time and risk to her pride to show me she has changed. I do feel better now that she has done so. Our lives havelong since moved on..she has remarried..Yet I still havent warmed up enough to be more forgiving in my heart with her.. I need to work on this.

Love this blog of yours ..
oh ..unrelated ,,Saw Carrie Underwood in concert this past weekend ..loved it.

Linnea said…

Thanks so much for sharing your story. I think this is an issue for most of us - it's just easier to believe in changes in folks when it isn't risky to us. So what if we are wrong about people we don't know? It won't hurt us! But if we actually take the risk of believing in the changes of those who have hurt us, then we risk being hurt again. It's a tough deal.

Luckily, though, we all have the power to forgive. We just have to be willing to use it.

About Carrie Underwood... I'm a wee bit jealous! I think she's fantastic. Good for you!

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