The Worst Lie You’re Tempted to Believe

“Oh, you didn’t tell me he’s fourteen. We don’t invest too much more in them by that age.”

Seated across from a school principal, I’d made this appointment to discuss a boy I was working to engage in our youth diversionary program. He was struggling in several areas and I hoped to get some support for his educational needs.

“Excuse me?” I hoped I hadn’t really heard what he said.

“I thought you were here to talk about someone in the middle school but this student is fourteen. If he’s not on the right track by now, I can’t help him.” The man shook his head and closed the file on his desk.

“He can’t legally quit school until he’s sixteen.” I ventured.

“Still. It doesn’t make any sense for us to pour more energy into him at this point.” I could see the man’s eyes had become doors instead of windows and that further conversation would get me nowhere. I tried anyway but to no avail.

Written off at fourteen. “We tried.” “What more do you want?” “He’s too old to change now.”

Seriously? At fourteen?

That conversation shocked me fifteen years ago and I’m still being shocked at how readily people give up on one another. There is truly a spirit in the air that whispers the lie to us all that “people don’t change.” “Don’t even try.” The evil spirit continues. “It’s useless to invest yourself here. Move on. It’s not worth the time, energy, love, hope, work. Whatever. People don’t change.”

I was shocked again recently while working with parents who are trying to help their children lose weight. Some were ready to abandon the effort after several weeks. “I give up. He/she continues to resist doing this. We’re not going to keep trying.”

Really? At age twelve or ten or eight? After trying to make a lifestyle change for only six weeks? Ten weeks? Twelve weeks? It’s over?

Change is hard. It takes work. It takes persistence. It takes hope.

Yeah. We don’t have that. If it’s this hard to do, we’re out.

I understand why people are tempted to lose hope for changing people who are older, but we live in a time when we’re starting to believe that change is even impossible for children. I’m fifty years old and I’m still changing. How can we possibly think about giving up on people by age eight?

This frustrated me until this week. In a discussion at work, I had an epiphany.

I was voicing my frustration to a teammate that we seemed to be spending a lot of energy working out policies and procedures that would be unnecessary if people on the team respected one another more. It seemed to me that the source of some of our most frequent problems is a lack of mutual respect on the team.

At the place that I work, respect is one of our four core values. I didn’t really think I was reaching by bringing this up but my teammate replied angrily to the effect that she could change policies and procedures but she had no idea how to change people. I could see I’d aggravated her just by suggesting that we try to fix things on that level.

Suddenly, I saw the gap that exists between situations where God is invited to be involved and those where He is not.

Of course, without God’s involvement, it does seem impossible, highly unlikely, or rare that people will change. Without God, people do tend to continue in bad patterns. They operate from their faulty characters. They are motivated for themselves. They sabotage their own lives. They perpetuate unhealthy lifestyles and self-destructive behaviors. I’m not stupid. I see this happen all the time.

The thing is, though, that I’ve also witnessed what is probably the quietest but most amazing miraculous work that exists this side of heaven. I have seen people change.

More specifically, I’ve seen God change people.

I lose sight of it sometimes but the truth is that I believe people can change at any age if they involve God in their change process.

I’ve seen it in others. I am living proof.

I know countless others who are not battling the same demons they battled years ago. They aren’t perfect but they have grown and changed and seen victory over addictions, setbacks, failures, or character flaws because they involved God in their change process.

I’ve seen people changed through the prayers of others even when the people themselves didn’t believe in God.

I have changed. I’m not the same woman I was ten years ago battling the same demons. I’m not perfect but I’m on to new struggles. I’m frequently tempted to give up on myself and I would if I didn’t know the power of God to change. I continue to change in Christ.

The apostle Paul knew about change. Jesus transformed him from a murderous Pharisee to a loving servant who gave his life for others. He wrote this in Philippians 3: 13b-14 “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Here’s the lie: “People don’t change.”

Here’s the truth: “Change is always possible when God is involved in the process.”

Have you given up on someone? Have you given up on yourself?

I was starting to give up at my job but instead, I’m going to invite God into the picture.

You can do that, too.

Bring your hopelessness to God in prayer and let Him renew your heart and your hope because, “Yes, Virginia, there is hope that people will change. That hope has a name. Jesus.”

(If you have a change story that will encourage others to continue to hope, share it in the comments today!)

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    The Conversation

  1. krex_1 says:

    Great post, Lori! I have a change story. When our two kids were 4 and 2 years old I found myself unexpectedly pregnant. A week later, close friends lost their 20yr old son in a hiking accident, then two or three weeks after that, I miscarried. My husband and I had pretty much decided to stick with 2 kids (he was very decided, I was ambivalent but okay with that), but in the midst of all that loss I began aching for that baby! I wanted one more so badly! I would bring it up multiple times over the course of the next few months, but there was no change in my husband’s heart. I prayed about it and sought God over it (wasn’t it more spiritual to have a larger family?), but still no agreement between us. As I realized that it was becoming a wedge between us, I said to God, “You know my heart, and I know You do not want this marriage to end, and this is a serious division between us. One of us has to change to preserve this marriage, but if it’s me, you have to take this desire for a baby from me! It’s too strong for me to just ignore!” Of course, I still hoped my husband would see the light 🙂 Instead, I found that ache left me and I was able to forgive my husband and be content. I know my heart’s desire never would have changed like that without God’s intervention.

  2. Dawn says:

    Hi Lori, I have a post about our son going to Haiti. When I first mentioned the trip to our son’s Dad he said “NO! ABSOLUTELY NOT” So I asked him to please just listen to everything first then think about it. Then we should discuss it. While he thought. I prayed. God worked on my husbands heart and he realized that it would be very selfish of him to not let our son go on this trip. God is in the change business even if that person is not following Him as he should.

  3. Thanks for being so transparent, Krex! To us and to God. Love that story and the power of God behind it.

    Dawn, thank you so much for sharing! You are so right about God being in the change business.

  4. sheri says:

    Lori, thank you for this timely story/blog ! Shared with you and others about my 16 year old niece that is into D/A and sleeping w/a 28 yrold ex-con. My sister feels like giving up on her own grand-daughter at at times…just like you are expressing here…says this baby of 16 is ‘warped’ from birth with her background w/a lesbian mother that has dragged over the world with whomever is her ‘partner’…I am sending this to my sis…God bless you…keep writing…it is soooo needed for our sin-sick-world !