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My brother came and stayed the summer with me here in California last summer and we talked a lot about books and movies and characters and relationships and I loved every minute of it.
We talked like Donald Miller does about making our lives more meaningful the way they make movies more meaningful. My brother said something and it’s stuck with me. He said he had tried to get into a popular TV show and after a few seasons he realized why he didn’t like it. He said the characters never changed. He was actually kind of disgusted that the same things that plagued them in the first episode still plagued them. Not a single one of them grew in character or decision making at all. The show is Big Bang Theory and I’ve seen it a few times and was surprised he didn’t like it because everyone else I know has watched all ten seasons. And he’s an engineering student, so he should like the show. But even though he got all the jokes and had friends in his classes who were exact replicas of the characters, he didn’t like it. I think it’s because he wanted his friends to be able to grow and overcome their challenges. He wanted it to be an option for him to grow and become who he thought he could become.
Then he told me about a show he loved. I haven’t seen the show, but I want to because of the way he talked about it. It was How I Met Your Mother. Each of the characters started out one way and at the end they were a little less “that way”. Insecure to secure. Single to in a good relationship. Lonely to having friends. Irritating to endearing. Grouchy to comforting. It’s the kind of show he wanted to see.
We want people to change. Or at least have it as an option.
I’ve been processing a lot of my life lately and think back on the characters who have caused pain, discomfort, heartbreak and I think, “I’d really hate to see that person again. I definitely wouldn’t trust them the way I did before. I’m so glad I’m a different person today.”
I know I’ve changed. It’s so easy for me to see myself for who I am today, but I keep thinking of others as they were yesterday. What if they’re different people today, too?
Two years ago I did run into two of those people I didn’t want to. I was so nervous. But they were both different than when they had hurt me. It’s still hard for me to see their old actions as anything but hurtful. One was in leadership over me and had been controlling, manipulative, and devaluing.
He gave a really good effort to make things right with me. He looked me in the eyes and told me it was good to see me. Then he spoke directly to one of the ways he’d hurt me and told me he saw things differently. He didn’t grovel. He didn’t even apologize. But it was like he was telling me he wanted to be different. And, as foolish as it may have been, I believed him. I still don’t want to be around him everyday, or even once a month or year, but I believe the road he’s on is heading up.
I want to be free to be better tomorrow than I was yesterday and I guess I’m realizing in order for it to be possible, I have to extend the option to others. As long as I’m keeping others in their pasts, I’m stuck in mine.
I think this is what grace looks like practically. Showing grace to others is allowing them the freedom to be someone new–better–today than they were yesterday.