By Janice Wolfe, Evansville, Indiana
Momma used to say she had to fight the urge to move every few years. As Momma was growing up, her family often moved when the rent was due. I am not sure why they were so poor; I only know that they were. Momma married when she was 16; Daddy, who had been born and reared and still lived within a hundred-yard radius of his birthplace, was 27. To this spot, he brought his new bride. They went on a short honeymoon, which was cut even shorter because the hunting dogs had gotten out. They went home the day after they got married so Daddy could help Grandpappy look for the dogs. Daddy and Momma lived in that spot until life struggles, answered prayers, and mostly a desire for change called them away to Florida. Daddy was then 50 years old.
I was fifteen, living in that same small Southern town when I had faced my first heartbreak caused by change. Some thought the preacher had gotten too strict on his standards and a little too free with whom he would share the “Gospel.” Some were scared to death about who might show up at church and what change that would bring. We sang the song “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world…red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight…,” but the words had no real meaning to those who feared change. For some, change meant we needed a new preacher.Change for me meant I would lose my best friend.
Things are always changing—good and bad, life and death, gain and loss. Life is like that. At times we feel we are in a rut, and then the kids are grown, the house is empty, and things have changed. People are always changing—good and bad,
life and death, gain and loss. People are like that. Friends and loved ones we have known for a lifetime are gone. Out of nowhere, a new friendship is made; you feel as if you have known that person all of your life.
Do I like change? Well, there are so many kinds of change—so many sizes and shapes. I think about the change that happened when I was 18 and left home for college. I never really went back home. I visited. I changed, and home had changed.
I think about the change that happened when I held my first daughter in my arms. Nothing was ever the same. For the rest of my life, I would have those who called me Mom and those who would depend upon me in some way. I was needed, and I am still needed in that way today.
I think about the change that happened many years and many changes later, when my then-new husband and I returned from our ten-day honeymoon. The two of us had been alone in warm, sunny Florida! Then we landed in Chicago, where it was 0°, and we were greeted by our SEVEN children. The real change had begun!
Circumstantial change is neither a problem, nor is it a solution; rather, it is a fact of life. Some change happens because life happens. If I were to share the events of my life, I promise the story would not be boring. The story would tell of incredible trials and miraculous blessings—goings-on that you would find in the most embellished novel. Yet these happenings are not exaggerated; they are a life full of constant change—good and bad.
A change of heart is the change that has been the most meaningful in my life and, of course, in my marriage. What a change of circumstance could never do, a change of heart could fix in an instant.
Though at the time it seemed like a thousand years of heartbreak and suffering, I want to take you now to a fairly brief time in my life. I will forego the reprehensible details, but needless to say, there had been so much change! I was disgusted, sad, and at war in my soul. My spirit was impatient, my words were harsh, and vengeance sounded like the perfect answer. I was suspicious and doubtful of motives. At times I even doubted God’s motives. I dug in deep and held on relentlessly to my pride. I felt completely out of control.
The prayer on one particular day began like this: “Lord, this is how I feel: angry…about all of the change; vengeful…I want justice; disappointed…great sadness overwhelms my soul.” As I described to the Lord that day how I was feeling, I kept hearing the same phrase over and over.“But the fruit of the Spirit is LOVE, JOY, PEACE…” (Galatians 5:22) But that was not how I felt, and it was not how I wanted to feel.
I began to sense that God was asking me to let go of the anger so He could replace it with love. God wanted to replace my sadness with joy, but I would have no part of it. I had let these feelings of anger build up for a long time. The anger, the bitterness, the pride was who I had become. I remember crying out to God audibly,
“But this is who I am. You are asking me to die…” I had barely gotten the word “die” out of my lips when another verse burst into my mind.“…I die daily.” (I Corinthians 15:31) And another, “…Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die….” (John 12:24) And another, “I am crucified with Christ….” (Galatians 2:20) Was I really struggling with something as rudimentary to the Christian life as dying to self?
Dying!! What a painful process of letting go of hatred so God could replace it with love and letting go of sadness for joy, anger for peace. I was letting go of and losing a part of who I had become through the many changes. I found that dying to self is not for the weak. Thankfully, I also found that “When I am weak, then am I strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)
Whatever circumstantial change you go through to get where God wants you to be will always be worth the effort. When change happens, look to God and trust Him completely to make the changes that will allow the Spirit to bear His fruit in your heart and life.