“Ask me any question you want- anything at all,” I said. “Just allow me to ask you one afterwards.” There was a long pause accompanied by a long stare. Finally, these words burst forth from her mouth, “How did you do it? How did you do it,” she asked, “Especially you being from Detroit and Black and all! Why didn’t you get caught up in the drugs? How come you don’t have a couple of kids? Why isn’t your life all messed up?” The look on her face was not just one of inquiry. Her eyes were squinting. Her look was hard. It was as if she was disgusted with me and with the fact that I was not plagued with the same issues that she had to deal with the majority of her life. She banged her fist upon the dinner table where we sat as she asked, “Why?!”
I answered her questions the best way I could. I told her a little bit about me and my life- no life is perfect. She opened up and told me about her life. It was plagued with physical and sexual abuse at a very young age, abandonment, one terrible foster home after another, drugs, promiscuity, early teenage pregnancy, bad choices, and on and on. That was her life she said. That is how it has always been.
“My turn for a question,” I said. “What are you willing to do- what will you give- what are you willing to sacrifice to change your life?” “You don’t understand,” she said. “My parents,… the foster homes… having a baby has ruined my life… the drugs…” Again, looking her straight in the eyes I said, “I hear you but what are you willing to do in order to change your life?”
I have worked professionally with people in crisis for at least two decades- addressing and dealing with the interpersonal issues that lead people into a life of continual turmoil and crisis. I’ve seen people in the midst of transition who were just trying to make some choices about life and relationships as well as people who were pretty much at their lowest point- sudden lost of employment and income, family break-ups, homelessness, poverty, substance abuse, promiscuity, depression, suicidal tendencies… I have seen a lot of tragedies as well as potential tragedies. I’ve also seen victories and potential victories.
I have come to discover that in order to help people break free out of their crisis mode and move forward toward positive change, you have to challenge and attack their current mentality- their thinking, and expose them to a different way of doing things.
The young lady I wrote about in the beginning got angry at me. Although my life has not been perfect, it was much different from hers. She was angry because she was beginning to discover that life isn’t “just that way.” Because life was bad for her and has been bad for her, she settled into the fact that her past, her present, and her future were out of her control. This is how life is for her and pretty much everyone she personally knows. Now, here sits someone who has the audacity to tell her, “Yes, I hear you, but what are you willing to do to change your life?” That was foreign to her. The concept that she now has choices- choices that could possibly change the course of life was simply foreign and is to a lot of people.
The questions, “What are you willing to do? What are you willing to give? What are you willing to sacrifice in order to change?” are questions that we all must ask ourselves at certain points in our lives. We may have faced things early on in our lives that we could not control. For instance, the young lady could not control the fact that her father never acknowledged her or that her mother abandoned her as a little child. She could not make the determination as to which foster home the state placed her. She could not stop the perpetrator who preyed on her, hurt her and robbed her innocence- all of that happened when she was just a little kid. However, now she has to learn that she has the power to make choices- she doesn’t have to just let life happen. She doesn’t have to treat her daughter the same way as she was treated or as the reason why her life is all messed up. She doesn’t have to stay a prisioner to drugs. She can learn to face the demons of her past- the hurt, the shame, the pain, the confusion, the anger- instead of covering them up with drugs, indifference, toughness… Confront her desire and need to want to be loved by somebody in order to stop giving herself away to anybody or anything. Will it be easy? Of course not! Can it be done? Of course it can? Luke 1:37 reminds us that with God, nothing is impossible.
So, I ask you today, where do you need change in your life? What are you willing to do, to give, and to sacrifice to change your life? You may have faced some hard times. You might have been mistreated. You may have had a hard break. In your life, you may have been dealt a terrible deck of cards. Maybe no one told you just how important and gifted you are. You may not have any joy in your life. You just exist or maybe you’re making one bad choice after another. You don’t have to be miserable. You don’t have to live without hope. You have choices now. You don’t have to be chained to the past.You don’t have to let life just happen. Listen to me- your life is valuable. You are not the things that have happened to you. You are not the feelings that you feel about the things that have happened to you. You are precious and its time you know it. It’s time you know your real worth and get to know the you that God created and make choices based on who you really are as opposed to who you think you are or who someone who didn’t know your value told you that you were. The decisions- the choices that you make today will determine your tomorrow. Are you ready for change? It starts with a choice.
Wendy M. Reynolds