If You Want Your Life To Change / by Michael Nichols

"Your iniquities have turned these away,And your sins have withheld good from you."

--the Living God through Jeremiah the Prophet to Israel

I stumbled upon (or maybe was led to) this passage in 2008. I had just broken up with my first girlfriend. It was my junior year of high-school, and I was just starting to really care about figuring out who God is. Up until then, He meant little more to me than a code of conduct, and the "love of Christ" was just something people talked about but never really cared to show.

I was just beginning to get serious about songwriting, more slowly the same about performance (guitar, piano, and singing).

Being little more than a seeker who'd been deluded by a "Christian" subculture into thinking he was a Christian, my true state (of not being remotely in Christ) began to call out to the truth of Christ in Scripture through the lies of my own faith. I would mostly just flip to a page and hope I found something. Not the worst strategy ever, and I still do it sometimes. Keeps things spontaneous. That led to this verse, and that verse led to a thought that sparked one of my first decent songs.

The chorus says,

"If you want your life to change

Then change your life

If you want the night erased

Embrace the light

No one will choose for you

That's what you have to do

If you want your life to change."

Okay, so I can cop to the fact that it probably sounds like an oversimplification of things. But you have to start somewhere, right? And a gut shot like that is sure to make you feel it. And that's kind of what I was going for.

I can't tell you how many times I've said that first line in conversation just because it's so relevant. Even the amount of times I've had to say it to myself is pretty crazy (but at least that means the song is personally meaningful). That being said, I have always known, but now know more thoroughly, that it's easier said than done, especially once you've been in a rut, and the longer you've been in a rut.

(On a similar but less serious note, a friend got me out of a music rut by introducing me to a band called For King & Country, so check them out if you haven't yet. Actually, that kind of sparked the thought behind tonight's blog. Anyway, I've digressed enough.)

If you've read much on this blog, you probably know that the 2010-2011 transition was not remotely pleasant for me. I lost a friendship with barely an explanation (yet enough of one to break my heart), which left me wrecked. Shortly after, I left home because of a lot of family tension I couldn't deal with.

I suppose you could say that I did change my life in that I left home. For the first time, I had to pay rent, take on lots of bills I hadn't had previously. I had two jobs, then quit one of them to start college in 2012. Then I had two jobs again at for six months from 2012-2013. Oh, and circumstances led me to needing to return home again near the end of 2012. You could say a lot of things changed.

But a lot of things didn't. After the severance of that old friendship, I learned how to reject bury thoughts of horrible self-deprecation in favor of moving forward.

See, there is a difference between rejection of evil thoughts toward yourself and burying them. Rejecting means you make them leave when they come knocking. Burying means you let them in but you lock them away and never let them go, or even acknowledge that they're still around.

And let me assure you. They kept coming. Life kept happening. And things were not going well for a quite while. Harmful thoughts became the norm.

When you let them stay, they can wreak havoc on your mind, which is by its nature beautiful, but not beyond disarray when faced with thoughts that seem right in the beginning but are actually out to kill you. Those thoughts will try to convince you that you're anything but beautiful.

That's a lie. We were made beautiful. Anything that defies that divine fact established by our Creator, is false, and creates in us sin (remember that we didn't sin until we were lied to).

I let a lot of lies stay with me, and they have been attempting to destroy me ever since. Unfortunately, recognizing those lies has taken much longer than I'd hoped or anticipated. It's taken a lot of love and patience on the parts of some friends who because of Christ are more like family than anything. And straight up, I'm still working through a lot.

In the beginning, the lie was that I was alone. In many ways. Friendship. Family. A girlfriend on the way to a wife. God. I didn't think that any of these things were attainable. I was wrong. But I didn't believe that because on the days follow the loss of that friendship due to the feelings I had, I told myself it had to be my fault only.

Then the lie became that I was worthless. So anything other than me was worth more than me or anything I could offer. I'd list how many bad decisions I made based on that thought (which I wouldn't acknowledge I thought, but I did think it), but that would take way too long. Suffice it to say that I lowered my behavior noticeably.

Then the lie became that I was just trying to feel better, so I was justified to sin. But I wasn't. It was rational because I had made a reason to do what I wanted regardless of who it hurt, including me... but it wasn't right. Sometimes, rational and righteous do not intersect, especially when we stop thinking about God and what His will is, and focusing on our problems outside of the context of His love.

See, by June 2009, I'd decided to follow Christ, I knew His love was real, and I knew I needed it, and I gave myself to Him. In 2011, I started pulling back without acknowledging it. If you know me, you know that when things get bad, I get quiet. I slowly stopped talking to people who were good influences on me, who were close friends, and I stopped talking to God, and I stopped looking for Him. I thought I was beyond His reach. I thought my brokenness was beyond repair. I was wrong.

The lies I believed just escalated, even though I didn't want them to, even though I really did want to keep following Christ but I was slowly doing so less and less. All the while, I blamed everyone who wronged me--from missing friends, to fakers, to users, to jerks, to people who should know better--for my decisions to do wrong, even when I refused to acknowledge that they were wrong. I refused to take responsibility for my life, which God is under no obligation to fix for me, especially when I'm making a mess of it myself. Of course, He did that at the cross despite that He isn't obligated, but I wasn't thinking about Him, was I?

Every time something bad happened to me, or I did something wrong, from 2011 to early 2014, I backed off a little more, and started putting walls up to keep pain out (there's an awesome Thousand Foot Krutch song about that). I became short, abrasive, sarcastic, bitter, bleak, and horrified beneath it all. And without realizing it, I was shutting out anyone who actually cared about me, cutting me off from a way to see and believe that I am cared for.

I locked away every ounce of pain, every corrosive thought, in my head, and didn't tell anyone anything for a long time. I was through with people. I know I'm not the only one who's felt this way, but hanging onto thoughts and patterns that were killing me inside was not the best approach.

(The fact that I've let this come between me and God is the worst part, and tells me straight up I need to start relying on Him more than I ever have, before I rely on others, which I can really only do in Him anyway.)

Then for some reason, a friend/mentor (frientor?) of mine, whom I hadn't really been close to previously, suddenly started including me in a lot of things. There didn't seem to be much prompting or reason behind it, from my perspective. They began to include me in things with their family, ministries that they led, all sorts of things, and just generally making me a part of all their lives. Suddenly, I had a bunch of people who would listen to me, who had no agenda other than me being a part of their lives, who I could share ministry with, who became my guiding light back out of the dark I was in.

I could see no context for it. It didn't make sense to have these people suddenly so close and so accepting the whole time, especially because by this time my self-esteem had become so low, my true personality so hidden from everyone including those I'd cared for, and my heart so far from Christ, that anyone doing anything remotely nice seemed like... alien. But it was all so genuine...

I had a choice. I had to either let them in, or not. I did. And it's still changing me. Because they decided to treat me like family, this last year and a half, despite significant ups and downs, has been the best of my life. It has been refreshing, restoring.

But all starts with one choice. I could have just as easily chosen to continued on in distrust of anyone, but I didn't, and I think that was provident. I think that when the Holy Spirit is on someone in your life, He makes a way through them, and draws you into Him, even if you've locked yourself away from Him.

Even if you don't know you've locked yourself away from Him.

Even if all your reactions, like mine, put you in the worst possible place, He always uses His people to reach the people who need Him and want Him. My choice to trust again was facilitated and carried out by Him. I could not, and I would not have done that, because I am not capable of change. Any time I tried to change, it either led to more bad decisions or pride (which is a bad decision based on our good decisions). Through Him alone, I was able to begin to open up again, and I have truly only just begun.

He is faithful to find you and pull you out of whatever rut you're in. No matter how deep it is. No matter how long it's been.

"If you want your life to change, then let go, and He will change your life."