I wanted to write about change, so as any good researcher would do, I did an internet search for thoughtful quotations about change and found a dictionary definition to boot.
“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” ― Leo Tolstoy
“No matter who you are, no matter what you did, no matter where you’ve come from, you can always change, become a better version of yourself.” ― Madonna (the rock star, not the one in the Bible)
“Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.” ― Mary Shelley
Redemption: an act of redeeming or atoning for a fault or mistake, or the state of being redeemed; deliverance, or rescue; deliverance from sin, or salvation, atonement for guilt.
Can a person really change?
Compared to three years ago, I am a completely different wife than I used to be. While this manifests most clearly in our sex life, it shows up in other ways as well. I work at being more respectful of my husband. I try to listen to him rather than react. I put surprise M&M’s in his lunchbox today. I no longer wear underwear to bed under my nightgown (if I’m even wearing one). Okay, that one kind of is about our sex life.
I act different. I feel different. I have held up a mirror–and sometimes invited others to do so–and have been honest with what I’ve seen. As I’ve discovered ugly things in myself, I’ve worked to cleanse myself of them. My heart is in the process of being forged and refined, at times very painfully but with a constant and growing sense of joy and rightness.
But I still feel like I’m the same person. People who are close to me recognize that I’m generally happier and that my marriage seems stronger than it’s ever been, but I don’t interact any differently than I ever have with people other than my husband.
So have I really changed? Or am I the same? My favorite of the change quotations above is the Madonna one (sorry, folks): “No matter who you are, no matter what you did, no matter where you’ve come from, you can always change, become a better version of yourself.” That’s exactly how I feel, like I’ve become a better version of myself–still me, only better.
How can we know if someone’s heart has truly changed? Is there a sign of contrition we look for? Is there a minimum time after which we will believe change has occurred? If the behavioral changes began with self-serving motives, do we dismiss the possibility that the changes are real?
I know I’ve changed, but I recently read something that made me realize that there are some who may not be able believe that real heart change was possible since my changes had their roots in selfishness. At first, I was hurt to think that someone would actually not believe me. But then I felt so heart-heavy and sad. How badly has a person been hurt if he or she can’t believe in the possibility of redemption or hope?
My husband had his access to emotional and physical intimacy controlled by me for two decades. He has seen me change. I’ve atoned for my sin, in both thought and deed. My husband has forgiven me, and so has my God. Most of the time, I can even say I’ve forgiven myself.
I thank God that my husband did not think I was beyond redemption, and I mean that in the fullness of the definition, not just theologically. Then again, beyond redemption . . . once you do the work, move past the changes, atone for your mistakes, accept forgiveness, and forge a better version of yourself, . . . when you keep on going beyond redemption, there is deep and abiding joy.
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