In the first months after I was married I became irritated at Paula. She was habitually late for appointments. It centered around her getting ready; I had no idea how much of a process putting makeup on involved!
Especially frustrating was my waiting for her to go to church. I was an assistant pastor and needed to be there on time and I found myself sitting on the couch calling out every couple of minutes, “How much longer?”
Our church was only about 100 yards from our home and so I walked if the delay was too long. Paula always felt bad and apologized for it, but I hated having to leave early without her. It wasn’t a major source of conflict nor did I get angry over it, but I was very frustrated over something that could be fixed so easily.
After a couple of weeks I went to my pastor and told him about the situation and asked for his advice. He said, “Rick, I know exactly how you feel, my wife did the same thing”.
Well, that gave me some hope and I knew he was about to give me something that was going to help change the situation! Instead, I was confused by his response. He said, “I would nag at my wife about it and nothing changed and both of us were frustrated so I decided to take a new approach. I just left her alone and stopped pushing her”.
When he told me that I was disappointed. This wasn’t going to fix anything. I would just have to accept it. Then, he continued, “You know, Rick, it wasn’t long after when I quit worrying about it that she changed and she was ready to go when we were supposed to leave”.
As I left my pastor’s office I thought, “I have tried everything else, though this is unorthodox and probably won’t work, I have nothing to lose. I’ll do it”. And I did. I left her alone the next Sunday morning and without agitation told her I was going to walk to church and I would see her shortly.
Incredibly after a few weeks my wife changed and was on time for church and other meetings. Today, more often than not, she is ready before I am.
The takeaway lesson for me from that situation is the person that needed to change was me. When I changed my attitude and approach, the problem improved. It was a wonderful truth for me to learn to begin our marriage: before I try to get my wife or children to change, first I need to look at my own life and make all the changes I can concerning the issue at hand.
Our ability to change starts by being aware of the need to change. For a believer this comes through the ministry of the Holy Spirit as He convicts us of our sin and wrongdoing. As we read or hear God’s Word taught or preached the Spirit of God speaks to us about things we need to change. These will either be sins of omission (things we ought to do that we are neglecting) or sins of commission (actions that include behavior and thinking that we are doing which we should not).
Lasting change is not a result of sheer determination and having an iron will. A believer has an advantage because the Holy Spirit indwells him (Romans 8:9) and He gives both the desire and the ability to do what is right. This enables him to finish strong in areas where change is needed and wanted. God’s grace enables us to do that which is not only difficult, but humanly impossible (Philippians 2:13).
It is too easy to recognize the faults of others and overlook our own. Leo Tolstoy wrote, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself”.
Recently I read the book “Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn” by John Maxwell. He listed seven questions to ask yourself to learn and improve from your mistakes. They were helpful to me and perhaps they will be to you in making positive changes.
When you identify a change that needs to be made take the time and process it through the following seven questions. I would encourage you to write the answers down to insure clarity and understanding. Dawson Trotman said, “Thoughts disentangle themselves through our lips and fingertips”. If we can’t express it or write it clearly then we don’t understand it fully and can’t address it thoroughly.
- What went wrong?
- When did it go wrong?
- Where did it go wrong?
- Why did it go wrong?
- How did I contribute to making it go wrong?
- What can I learn from this experience?
- How will I apply what I’ve learned in the future?
Filter your challenge through this list and then take it to the Lord and ask Him for His help and guidance to help you change your part in the problem. Just hoping and wishing it will change will not work. Hope is not a strategy.
Have you been trying to make some positive changes, but have become discouraged and quit? Ask God to help you. If you’re not born again, ask Him to save you and change your heart. Spend time in the Bible each day to strengthen your desire to follow the Lord. Take some time to thoughtfully review the seven questions to make sure you understand the root issues. Then, make sure that you take care of your part of the problem.