Lately, I have thought long and hard about why people refuse to change or refuse to acknowledge that they need change in their lives. It can be so evident on the other side looking in, that change could drastically improve the quality and relationships in those lives.
After a lot of thought this is what I have landed on: Change is uncomfortable.
It is uncomfortable because it means dealing with your dirt. It could mean going against what you know and what is familiar in your coping techniques. It means unzipping the full suitcase that you drag around with you everywhere you go but refuse to acknowledge you own. Are you ready to face your past and your hurt? How about facing your shame? Are you ready to go through the hard stuff to find healing?
These are the real questions that need to be asked if you truly desire change.
Are you willing to be vulnerable in the pursuit of healing?
This is not a small thing to ask. Are you willing to get very uncomfortable for a while so that you may find healing for good?
For me, it was not quite so clear. Looking back gives you clarity and I can see now that this was what I had been doing with my past. Unknowingly, I was hauling my past around into every relationship, every friendship, and every circumstance with me. It was there skewing my perspective and my triggering my reactions, and I had become so familiar with my own baggage, that I did not see it happening.
Here is how change began for me:
(and I sure resisted this at first)
Our church offers a women's retreat every other year (non-Covid years of course!). I saw it in the bulletin and on the large screen, and honestly, I did not want to go. I was entering a new season in my life where I was looking to grow in my faith, I was trying to connect in our church and I was trying to make new friends, but I was not looking to go away for a weekend with strangers.
Nope, not me. Not happening. No thanks. That's for other people, for those people who do retreats.
I felt this nagging sensation, that conscious-type of a voice telling me that maybe I should go. Ok, I thought, there's no way I'm free that weekend because as a mom of young children I worked so many weekends as my husband was home every weekend. I went to my calendar expecting the retreat dates to be fully booked, and quite honestly I was hoping they would be but it was the one weekend I was wide open. Okay.
Well, I thought, there is no way my husband will want me to go. That means he is home alone with three small kids all weekend, and all by himself. No way, but I'll ask him.
"Sure! You should go!" he said honestly and sincerely. Okay, I was also not expecting this to go this way.
Well, I'm not driving way out there by myself. No, it's just too far and I have never driven out there before, especially by myself. (Can you see my stubbornness here?!) About five minutes after saying that to myself, I got a text message from a new acquaintance from our church's moms group.
"Hey, there are a few of us carpooling together and there is room for one more. Want to join us?" said Daina.
Okay, I also was not expecting that.
It was at that moment, I decided that maybe I did need to go to this Women's retreat. Clearly all the doors were open allowing me to go even providing transportation for me there and back. Yes, I would go. I signed up then and there. I was actually very comfortable in my daily routine, but I was no longer wanting to be comfortable. I was wanting to be challenged and inspired. I was wanting friendship and support. I was going to have to get uncomfortable and face my fears because I wanted more than my uninspired daily routine that was leaving me feeling bland and lonely.
I went to that retreat, and I can truly say that almost six years later, it was one of the most pivotal changing moments in my adult life.
Here is why: I finally saw my past for what it was and acknowledged that it was time to face it and find the healing that I never knew I had needed.
At this weekend retreat, we had virtual sessions with the one and only Beth Moore. She is a fabulous and famous Christian leader and speaker. She shared her story of how her past just all hit her one day and it was huge and ugly and it had to be dealt with. She asked us to write down specific items in our past that needed to be dealt with. So I did. At first I just looked down at the lined paper wondering "What am I supposed to write?" I started with the first unresolved issue I could dig up from way back in my memory and as I wrote the list just kept getting longer. I had never done an exercise like this before. A dawning realization hit me then; I realized that I really never dealt with my tumultuous past from my post-high school and college days.
It all became so overwhelmingly clear that my past hurts, shame and regrets were all still with me, tucked deep and far back in my mind, but there none the less. In that tumultuous season of my life, I was in survival mode and just kept moving forward. It was time to now to stop and sit down and intentionally deal with my past.
I went home from that retreat with amazing new friendships and a new determination to work on reconciling my past and finding healing, on whatever level that was. I wrote out a long list of past regrets, mistakes, and hurts that needed to be dealt with. Over the next few weeks, I worked really hard on this list. I forgave others, I forgave myself, I accepted responsibility, I chose to let go, I talked about it to my husband and to close and trusted confidantes. It was liberating. I had no idea how heavy it was carrying around my past. day in and day out.
And when I thought I was done dealing with it all, I wrote down an entirely new list going all the way back to my childhood, always trying to earn love and acceptance. It was exhausting but liberating.
I reconnected with a friend that I had not seen for over 1.5 years. I reached out to her and met her at her house. I apologized for how I had treated her and finally was able to explain why I reacted the way I did. Because I finally understood myself and I finally understood why I was reacting. It was one of the issues I had to deal with and confront in myself and work on changing. She told me that I seemed "different...lighter. You seem happy, like you have joy and lightness." We laughed, we cried. I was vulnerable. I did not know how this meeting was going to end up, but I knew I needed to do it, to make things right between us. She is now one of my dearest friends years later.
Vulnerability has the ability to do that. Vulnerability can break down walls and open doors; It can soften hearts when done with love and sincereity. Let me be clear though, I did not know how my meeting with my friend was going to end. I did not know it would have such a beautiful outcome. I just knew that I needed to do what I could, and fix what I had the power to fix, my part in it all. Not all my experiences were so positive, some people do not want to reconcile because that often means forgiveness from them and they may not want to or be ready to give.
But doing your part frees you, don't forget that.
We can only truly be accountable to ourselves at the end of the day. We only have the power to change ourselves. God works in our hearts. And He can works in those other hearts too. Sometimes that means pray and let them go. Put your time and energy into becoming the most sincere version of you. Jesus called us to love as He loved.
John 15:12 NLT "This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you."
Dealing with my past brought up a lot of emotions and hard memories. I'm not sure what your past holds, but I recommend that you start somewhere. Start with being willing to admit that there are things that need to be dealt with. Maybe that means making a list or talking to a trusted person in your life. Maybe that means seeking professional help from a school councillor, therapist or support group.