20/20: Lesson #4: People Do Change (Though Often Slowly)

Have you ever felt like the change that was needed in your life was awfully slow in coming?

Me, too. But take heart: God is active and change is happening. That’s something I hold on to when I’m discouraged about the pace of change in my own life, or in the lives of others.

Today, I’m posting another lesson from my 20 years of full-time vocational ministry. (May 1 marked 20 years.) So far, we’ve got:

Lesson #3: Grace is the Operational Mode of Ministry

And now today, Lesson #4: People Do Change (Though Often Slowly).

I take great comfort in this fact. There are days when I have to choose to believe it, even when it seems like a leap of faith.

As I have looked back on my 20 years, I’m stunned by how much change I’ve seen in my own life and in the lives of others. But in the moment, on that Tuesday afternoon or that Sunday night, it can feel like nothing’s happening.  SlowLife change can seem so painfully slow.  Seeing people take steps backward in their relationships, give into hurts, lose yet again another battle with anger or addiction, lash out in selfish pettiness–it can be so discouraging. Looking in the spiritual mirror can be such a slap in the face. Why am I still struggling with that? 

And yet, what I can say is this: people really do change. When given the grace and the time, when loved and challenged in community, when grace really is the way we ministerwhen we trust the Holy Spirit’s work in a person’s life and story, we see real and lasting change happen over time.

Now, of course, not in every case. There are those who truly resist Jesus’ leadership in their lives. I get that. But on the whole, I’ve been more encouraged than discouraged, and it reminds me to take heart when I’m feeling like nothing’s happening, whether in my own life or in the lives of the people I’m loving. I often judge what’s happening based on a snapshot of a particular moment; God sees the panoramic, decades-long movie playing out, and he’s got a much bigger story in mind than you and I can imagine.

And this helps me. It gives me bigger perspective, more hope as continue to love and pray and serve others, as I continue to ask Jesus to lead in my life–God is at work and though it may seem slow, change is happening.
When you look back, what are some of the surprising changes you’ve seen in your own life?


Coming up next: Lesson #5: The Local Church is God’s Plan.