Where was it? Where was the Cliff Notes copy on how to be married? Who knew the step-by-step process by which two people get married and learn to change? I never found the Cliff Notes and I never met that person who knew the secrets to successful change. Unfortunately I had to learn on my own. Sure I had people around me who had been married before to be my examples; my parents, my grandparents, parents of my friends, aunts and uncles, and so on and so forth. None of them warned me about how to change the person you marry. Yes I said I wanted to change the person I married... still do. Every day I strive to change my wife. Ridiculous and selfish? Yes and no. However, I finally learned what true change entails. I have learned the secret, I have found the Cliff Notes, and I am that person who learned the step-by-step process. I apologize if I sound cocky, but I am happy to know that I know how to change my wife. However, and I mean that as a warning, the way to change someone is not what you would expect, but it works.
Is it killing you yet? Well I had to wait through 10 years of marriage before I found this invaluable nugget of truth. What is even more aggravating is that I have read over this answer to all of my change problems at least a hundred times. Romans 12:2, “Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what He wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-informed maturity in you.”
I have to say this before I go on. I do not believe my wife is always wrong. Sometimes when I am trying to change her I realize I am the one that needs changing. But whether it is my wife or someone else, people do aggravate us, hurt us, and do wrong things to us. The maturity of our response is a result of how transformed are our minds are from the renewal process Christ has started in us. In other words, Paul said when the world around you is trying to distract you from Christ by denying the fruit of the spirit to grow in you and replace it with the fruit of the flesh (Galatians 5:16-24), we must be transformed in our minds. We must have our thoughts and everything in us taken captive and made obedient to Christ.
Let me explain this in a more crude and worldly perspective called beer goggles theory. Not an official theory mind you, but for those of you who have never drank a drop of alcohol you will not know the experience, but you can understand the correlation.
Beer goggles are imaginary lenses a person dons when they begin to drink alcohol. Here is brief story of a fictitious night involving a person who utilized the beer goggle theory. We will call this person Pat, a gender-neutral name. Pat goes into a bar and orders a beer. At the start of the night Pat scans the room looking for a companion to enjoy the night with (remember complete worldly perspective). Pat looks over several prospects and they all look great, but while they are playing in the proverbial “pros”, Pat is forever playing in the minors. There is a decent looking person in the corner of the room talking with their friends, but Pat was hoping for something a little more out of Pat’s league. As the night continues, the drinking increases, and not a single super model has approached Pat. However, that bench player Pat saw earlier is looking more and more attractive. After a few hours of downing more than a dozen alcoholic beverages Pat’s “last resort coyote ugly” has become Pat’s “last call hottie”. Unfortunately for Pat, the next morning this person has become no more attractive than 90 year old Ms. Betty who lives next door.
The point is this. Alcohol was an influence that led Pat to see a person initially as not so attractive, to eventually acceptably attractive, to full blown WOW! The person never changed the way they looked, but the goggles that Pat put on through the consumption of alcohol changed that perspective.
The important word here is perspective. Our perspective on life is either seen through a worldly lens or a godly lens. These are the only two pair of glasses we have at our disposal, and we put a pair on every morning. Which ones are we wearing? You see when you wear the worldly glasses you are essentially bowing down to your fleshly desires and allowing them to be the end result of your reaction when people do wrong to you. Those reactions will be: “repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community” – (Galatians 5:19-21, The Message).
However, if we dress ourselves with godly spectacles we will find that the opposite of those reactions will produce the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control;” – (Galatians 5:22-24, The New American Standard Bible).
If our perspective is viewed through cloudy, worldly lenses we will react to our spouses when they get irritated with us for no reason with anger, spite, and strife. If our perspective is center through God’s eyes we will respond to the same situation with self-control, gentleness, and kindness. The hard part about being a Christian is to be kind in the face of unkindness, to be peaceful in the environment of violence, to be good in the atmosphere of immorality. Because we are primarily driven by our circumstances, which is another topic all together, we must learn to react with mature and godly responses.
So how does this change the other person? Well, just like the beer goggles it might not change a thing. When it is all said and done the other person may be the same in the end as they were in the beginning. That is what I learned is hard about getting someone else to change. It might not change them at all. I am not called to change others, that is God’s responsibility and He can have it. I am called to change myself and see things as He sees them. The good thing change brings is that it makes us better, and it brings us closer to God. The follow up to that is prayer. Paul expressed that because of his change from persecutor of Christians to witness for Christ, he hoped to see others change because of his example, and not so much because of his words. It is about what people see God doing in us more so than by what we tell them. Not to diminish speaking godly truth, but it has to be supported by a life seeking the truth.
It is difficult to initiate change in others because the change must begin within us. Even more difficult is to continuously move forward in change despite seeing others remain the same.