Is Change a What or a Who?

imagesHow often do you demand, expect, or desire organizational change?

Consider the following:

What does the national government need to “get it right”?

What are the top changes the church should make?

What are the major changes you want to see at your workplace or grocery store or in the healthcare, education, or public aid systems?

It’s easier for us to demand organizational change than to accept personal change. We can identify issues that need to be addressed and resolved. We’re great armchair quarterbacks. But how do we respond when God announces,

“I interrupt this game you’re dreaming about to bring you back to reality. You’re trying to play everyone else’s game, and you’re missing out on your own. You need to be willing to change instead of just talking about change.”

Ouch.

Mahatma Ghandi said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” I think God would tweak it a bit: “You must be the change God wants to see in the world.” In essence, you need to listen and respond to God and the way he’s changing you. You’re not the only one on his radar; he’s able to be everywhere all the time. He’s got the details covered. That means he can change the world. He could change organizations. But God’s way of changing works through people. He’s passionate about people he creates and wants an intimate relationship with them. If you desire change, he wants you to experience change.

Change is an investment. It can be a foolish investment or a wise investment. God wants to show you what wise investment is. He wants you to engage in investments that yield significant growth. The growth and change isn’t always what you define as the best or most preferred growth and change, but if it’s God’s way, it’s the best way.

Are you going to get stuck in the quagmire of expecting change outside you in order to meet you where you are, or are you willing to let God examine where you are and take you to another place, impacting not only your own life but those you connect with along the way?

“I am the true vine; my Father is the gardener.He cuts off every branch of mine that does not produce fruit. And he trims and cleans every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce even more fruit.You are already clean because of the words I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. A branch cannot produce fruit alone but must remain in the vine. In the same way, you cannot produce fruit alone but must remain in me. I am the vine, and you are the branches. If any remain in me and I remain in them, they produce much fruit. But without me they can do nothing. If any do not remain in me, they are like a branch that is thrown away and then dies. People pick up dead branches, throw them into the fire, and burn them. If you remain in me and follow my teachings, you can ask anything you want, and it will be given to you. You should produce much fruit and show that you are my followers, which brings glory to my Father. I loved you as the Father loved me. Now remain in my love.” (John 15:1-9)

Tips for Struggling Adult Children

635995551842428548423414045_adultingYesterday, I posted some tips for the parents who might be struggling to parent their adult children well. Today, I want to write specifically for the adult children of those parents…

Adulting isn’t easy. You might miss your mom, the freedom of your childhood, or the dreams you determined but just can’t seem to reach. Or you might be angry that your mom isn’t who you need her to be as you grow into adulthood. She’s not available, doesn’t seem to understand, or can’t seem to accept you as an adult. What can you do?

Step through grief. Life changes. You’ve left many things behind—some that you were too young to remember. You celebrated moving on at times, but other times, it’s been difficult. That’s okay. Let yourself grieve the loss of something or someone, recognize you can’t completely go back, but you can celebrate and embrace what God has in store for the next stage of life.

Focus on what you need, not what you want. This is a hard one no matter how selfless you think you are. You’ll wrestle through assumptions and expectations. Dreams begin to rub against reality. Be as honest as you can be with yourself and others. Instead of choosing to surround yourself with people who affirm whatever you want, choose people who will support and encourage you but also challenge you to continually grow.

Refuse to think you have all the answers. With adulthood comes with responsibility to be a humble, lifelong learner. Admit you don’t know it all, and face the idea that your experiences don’t reflect all of reality. Avoid being too hard on yourself. You’ll have to learn some things the hard way.

Refrain from keeping people where they were, including your parents. Just because your parents responded to you in a certain way in a specific situation or season of your life doesn’t mean that response defines them. Just as you change and grow, so will they. That doesn’t mean they’ll become more like you want them to be, but it also doesn’t mean you understand everything about them.

Be responsible. Blame only digs a hole of insecurities and hurt feelings that are difficult to overcome. Honestly evaluate yourself often in order to learn and grow.

Give God your whole heart, mind, soul, and strength. It’s easier said than done. So many things grab at our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and while God wants us to invest in and be passionate about people, they are never to take His place. Let Him lead. You can trust Him, even through the messiness of adulting.

Adulting Children

635995551842428548423414045_adultingWe grow up. Then our kids grow up. There’s so much joy in the journey, but it’s also tough. When we have our babies, we have so much hope for the future, but as we face the reality of the future, it is often a bit more challenging than we expected. Our children begin to adult and…

  • We face strangers, hardly recognizing our adult children and struggling with the choices they make.
  • We have difficulty letting go, continuing to try to guide their lives as if they still live under our roofs.
  • We have difficulty helping them let go. They need us, so how can we say no to helping, even when we know they need to grow up and take responsibility?
  • We feel cut off and abandoned when our adult children decide they’d rather do life without us, perhaps even choosing to “punish” us by not letting us spend time with them or grandchildren.

And the list goes on. Each situation and relationship is different, but one thing is certain: parenting adult children brings its own challenges with it. We faced sleepless nights with a baby, safety concerns with a toddler, separation when our children started school, and activities, peer pressure, and struggles for independence through middle and high school. We thought high school or college graduation might let us sigh and enjoy those adult friendships we’ve heard so much about—and we might get to savor some sweet moments—but our kids don’t stop changing and growing just because they reach twenty-one. Hopefully, we don’t stop growing either.

So, what can we do to ease the transition and help ourselves, our adult children, and our relationships? Not every tip that follows will apply to your situation, but let one or two challenge you to try something new.

Step through grief. It might seem like a negative place to start, but if we’re honest, we deal with grief throughout parenting. We move from one stage to another. In fact, about the time we get used to one stage and feel confident about what we’re doing, our children change, and we have to change with them if we want to respond well. Can you imagine parenting a 13-year-old like a toddler? Absolutely not. You can’t parent a 30-year-old like a teenager either. Refuse to get stuck. You might be sad for a moment, but make sure you also celebrate growth and change.

Give your adult children what they need. Not always what they want, and not what you want. This is a hard one, because we’re so invested in their lives, it’s difficult to take a step back, set ourselves aside, and determine the right priorities. It means listening well, choosing our moments to speak with wisdom, and letting them make mistakes and learn from them. That leads us into the next practice:

Refuse to think you have all the answers. You’re been at this adult thing a lot longer than your adult children. Instead of using that as a justification that you have all the answers and solutions, remind yourself that adulthood comes with responsibility, not just for your children but for you. You have the responsibility to be humble, admit you don’t know it all, and face the idea that while you’ve had many experiences that might help, your experiences and your adult children’s aren’t exactly the same. Just as you had to discover some things the hard, long way, so do your children (of any age). If you look back, you’ll probably admit you learned some of the best lessons as you struggled through trials. As much as you want to spare your children some of that pain and angst, overprotection and quick answers might end up robbing them of some essential, albeit rough, experiences.

Lead by example. If you want your adult children to grow in their compassion, mercy, patience, respect, faith, generosity, and love, you need to not only authentically live them out but also grow in them. You don’t have to be perfect. (Good thing!) You may not be able to share every struggle, but neither should you put on a show for them. They’re adults now, and they need to continue to watch you grow as an adult. Your adulting well is no guarantee they will follow in your footsteps, but it’s worth the effort, not just for them but for you.

Stop being surprised. If you find yourself continually hurt, frustrated, and confused when your adult children do the same things over and over, at least give them credit for being consistent. Why be surprised with their predictability? That’s not to say you excuse what they do, but you don’t have to bear the brunt of the stress.

Be responsible, but let your adult children take responsibility. Stop blaming yourself. And stop blaming them, too. Blame only digs a hole of insecurities and hurt feelings that are difficult to overcome. Honestly evaluate yourself often but only with the determination to learn and grow. But refrain from evaluating your adult children too often. You still have influence, but you don’t have the power you once had in their lives. You can pour into them, but be careful not to step into the discipline and control realm.

Give God your whole heart, mind, soul, and strength. This one might seem obvious, but it’s easier said than done. We often say our children have our hearts, or they are constantly on our minds. Of course, we love and invest in them beyond what we can express, but they should never be our focus. They are not our possessions. We don’t know nearly as much as God does. As difficult as it is to believe, we don’t love them remotely as much as He does. They are His creation, and He knows every single detail of their lives throughout eternity. Moments along the way won’t always make sense to us, but we can trust God.

God’s Role. Our Role.

psalms_33_20_22_by_boughtbybloodme-d7ubuoxWe wait for Yahweh; He is our help and shield. For our hearts rejoice in Him because we trust in His holy name. May Your faithful love rest on us, Yahweh, for we put our hope in You. (Psalm 33:20-22)

God: helps. shields. loves. We: wait. rejoice. trust. hope.

How often do we overlook our own responsibilities and take on God’s?

Easy Faith

faith-closeupThe boastful cannot stand in Your presence. (Psalm 5:5b)

Pride separates us from God. We have to leave something behind – ourselves – when we approach Him. We can’t have it both ways – our own and His. We might not label it as pride. We call it control, priorities, organization, responsibility, management, or many other things. Things that in our individualistic society sound noble and helpful instead of a hindrance to faith. But it is a hindrance. Seeing things our own way gets in the way of truth. Sure, things might make more sense to us through our own eyes, feelings, and experiences, but with nothing to measure against, how can we possibly know where we are or how we’re doing? Comparing ourselves to others? That rarely ends well. We still pick and choose how authentically we compare.

We often pit pride and humility against each other in simplistic terms, as if pride is feeling good about ourselves or something and humility is being ashamed about ourselves or something. We get it turned upside down and inside out. Pride shuts out others, no matter how inclusive we think we’re being. We simply rationalize who is “us” and who is “them.” Humility welcomes, because it opens our eyes to the truth of our similarities and possibilities. Humility helps us believe.

Faith isn’t easy. Humility isn’t easy.

But easy isn’t the goal of faith.

Communication and Talking Aren’t The Same

blah-blah-blahSometimes I talk without communicating well.

I know I don’t control someone else’s attention or response, but I can pay attention and respond as I’m talking. After all, talking isn’t the point. Communication is.

I’ve often used the phrase, “But I already told you…” or “I said…,” as if the simple fact that words came out of my mouth secured successful communication.

It doesn’t.

The weight doesn’t completely rest on me, but I need to take communication seriously enough to know that I have some responsibility. I know my motives and my style, so I may think that just saying something to someone or sending an email or text gets the job done. But communication is often less about the content and more about the relationships involved. If I don’t respect the other person through the communication process (and my attitude), what have I gained? What could someone else possibly gained?

The goal of communication is rarely isolated to information.

Communication involves people, so respect, patience, forgiveness, and humility must be a part of it…perhaps even the goal.

 

Receiving the Baton

post-12Elisha picked up the mantle that had fallen off Elijah and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. Then he took the mantle Elijah had dropped and struck the waters. “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” he asked. He struck the waters himself, and they parted to the right and the left, and Elisha crossed over. (2 Kings 2:13-14)

We actively receive. We participate in the passing of the baton. Sometimes, we might just want or expect to receive, but grasping what someone offers takes willing participation and preparation. We might stubbornly refuse because the passing of the baton isn’t done the way we want or in the timing we want. We may get too much or not enough recognition in the process. We might feel underprepared. We might not have much respect for the person we follow, or we might have so much respect for him or her that we are overwhelmed with the responsibility. But none of that cancels our responsibility to receive. We have to be ready and willing to do what it takes to pick up and put on what God intends in His timing.

What is He asking you to pick up (and put down) today? He’s prepared you. Trust Him through the process. Respond in faith.