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.