[NOTE: This is NOT a political post.]
It happened again this morning. While I was cooking my eggs, listening to one of the news channels. Someone--an eminent journalist and historian--said of Donald Trump, "Seventy-year-old men don't change."
This thought-meme has, in recent years, taken on the authority of Holy Writ. The idea has been around a long time, of course. Remember the saying, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks”? But it seems that I hear people spouting it more and more these days.
Here's the thing though. It's a big fib, as false-though-widely-accepted a notion as the one telling us that all men go through midlife crises. There's not a shred of scientific, empirical evidence to support either of these widely accepted assertions.
In fact, people, no matter what their age can and do change. The twelve-step movement, with its roots in the Oxford Movement and Biblical Christianity, is predicated on this fact: People can and do change.
But the very first prerequisite for a person to make changes in their lives is willingness. To change, people must want to change. And then, they must rely on God to help them live into those changes.
Last Sunday, an eighty-eight-year-old man I know got out of bed, showered, breakfasted, and put on his Sunday best to do something he hadn't done and hadn't been able to do, but had wanted to do for nearly two decades: He went to worship.
While my mother sank into depression and ill-health, not wanting my father to be gone for more than a half-hour at a time, Dad had not attended worship. My mother died last April and, in the months since Dad has told me repeatedly of his desire to be in worship again. But, for reasons not worth going into, he felt that he could not go back to the church of which he and my mom had long been a part. Instead, he decided on a different church. And that's where, breaking with decades of habit and inertia, dad went to worship last Sunday. On Sunday evening, he told me, "It'll take some getting used to the service, but I will."
People who want to change can change. My faith and call as a Christian are predicated on this truth. Repeatedly, I have seen how people who want to change AND turn to the God revealed in Jesus Christ to help them make that change, do precisely that.
Frenetic workaholics change their lifestyles and live at peace.
Alcoholics and drug addicts who want to be free find that their desire for freedom and their reliance on God for that freedom changes their lives.
Garden variety sinners who want to change can change and are changed by the grace of God. (Garden of Eden variety sinners...all of us.)
I've seen it in others and personally experienced it in myself too many times to believe that change is impossible for we human beings.
So, I don't believe the lie that people can't change. And I beg you: Don't use it yourself as an excuse for not repenting, not improving your life, not working on your marriage, not striving to be more productive, not thinking that the dreams God gives to you can't come true.
It's not easy breaking years of habit, inertia, and rationalizations to make positive changes in our characters and our lives. And we cannot make them on our own: God is the change agent on Whom we need to rely.
But if we want to make positive changes in our lives and we trust in God to bring them, no matter how old or young we are, He can do it. Nothing is impossible with God!
[I'm the pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]