She told me that it was “a life-changing experience.”
Over the months that followed, I noticed an insignificant amount of change. No adjustments were made in her schedule. No new ventures for God were started. Church attendance and participation didn’t increase. Nothing visible changed in her life. I am not saying there wasn’t some internal course modification made, but there were very few alterations made that were noticeable to the general public.
He told me that it was “a life-changing experience.”
How could someone avoid the presence of God in their life after what he had been through? Once again, I watched with eager anticipation to see how his life would change for God. Over the following months, there were several emotional retellings of what happened. Each one with a tagline of it being “a life-changing experience.” Words were many, but the changes were few. The old routine dominated his actions, and no I noticed no real difference in him.
This story has replayed itself over and over in my ministry. I have watched people go to Church camp, a CIY retreat, a mission trip, a conference, a special program and a dozen other things with the label on them as life-changing events. On the other side, I have watched people go through divorce, death, disease, and disaster and expected them to make changes after such traumatic encounters, only to see no real difference. I wish I could say there was some guaranteed way to help people change their lives for God and for the better, but most of my stories are of failure and unfulfilled promises.
I have found that real life change usually doesn’t happen after a big dramatic experience. Life change is the result of one decision followed by a hundred smaller choices.
The first part is the trickiest. Changes for the better start at unexpected times. One day you look in the mirror, and you don’t like what you see. Your children say something that catches you off guard, and it stings your soul. You read an article, hear a sermon, or just have a conversation that convicts you. Out of these moments, you find yourself in the deep spiritual reflection that leads to a decision. There must be a flash of light across your soul that burns deeply enough for you to see your need for change.
Once you know you need to change, then there needs to be a hundred little decisions to follow. You adjust your schedule an hour differently. You bite your tongue and change your words. You give without complaining. Everything in your life is questioned to see if it aligns with your big decision.
The people I have seen make the most significant life changes rarely have “a life-changing experience.” Instead, they are people who quietly alter one action at a time year after year.
As we start a new year most resolutions will be lost no matter how many times we tell people we had a life-changing experience. Change comes through decisions, not experiences.