Friday, February 07, 2014

"People Never Change" and Other Myths of the Human Spirit

"Revelation" 6" x 6" x 1.5" collage by Crystal Neubauer
Each morning I step out of the shower and look up through the skylight at the large oak tree whose branches reach high over the roof. It is a telling way to mark the seasons. The green buds of spring unfurl into leaves so full they nearly choke out the summer sky, competing with clusters of small brown acorns that weigh the limbs down in a whispering dance until the breeze of summer gives way to the fiercer winds of fall, and the hard-shelled fruit drops in a barrage of sound on the roof rivaling any fourth of July celebration. The season changes once again and the branches are bared day after long harsh winter day. Except for the one lone brown leaf. Dead, but clinging to the tree as if there is life in it still.

Looking up at that dead leaf each morning this winter, I can't help but think of the visual metaphor it presents.

Thinking back, I remember once hearing the words "people never change" spoken to me by, what I can only assume, was an embittered soul who had given up hope of seeing any meaningful transformation come from a person they once cared about. And in truth, the world would have us believe it: "you can't teach an old dog new tricks!"

What a grim outlook on life.

It ranks right up there with other fatalistic beliefs about the human spirit like "I have no purpose" and "I am destined to always be (fill in the negative), so I might as well give up".

Nearly every day we hear of people who have determined to change their circumstances, overcome obstacles, lose weight, finally learn how to dress for social occasions, run a marathon, or whatever the case may be. And it inspires! So we resolve to become the best version of ourselves we can possibly be.

The version we know deep down exists somewhere on the inside. Not the crowd following sheep version of ourselves that smiles large and pretends to be nice by saying "no problem" to every demand on our time while secretly resenting the other person for the audacity of having a need. But the version who understands she has worth and values herself before she expects other people to.

It is the verbally abusive rage-aholic suddenly hearing the voice of God and determining to follow it. It is the addict waking up on his 31st birthday knowing he has to change or he will die. and choosing life.

It is choosing to really LIVE.

New Year's resolutions may quickly be broken, but that doesn't stop us from trying.

Truly, I believe, that it is not human nature to stay the same. It is in our very DNA to strain toward that which we know we were meant to be; Created beings wired for relationships, built with a purpose, and given the ability to choose whether to move into that purpose or to turn away. We choose whether to accept our lot in life or to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and try to make a change.

And truly, I believe, there is merit in the trying. It is an act of the will that says I agree that I am not perfect. I agree that I need to change. Regardless of the circumstances that shaped my life, there is a point that I have to say "the choice is now mine". 

"Revelation" 6" x 6" x 1.5" collage by Crystal Neubauer
And after years of the choosing. And years of the learning new behaviors and unlearning the old. After years of determining to work really really hard to change. There I was standing in the bathroom looking up at that tree. At that one single brown leaf still clinging to it. That dead brown leaf. And I knew in my heart it was a message from God left there just for me.

"Why is the tree still clinging to that leaf?" I catch myself thinking almost simultaneously with "Why can't I stop (insert agitating behavior pattern or low self-esteem causing belief here)" and suddenly it hits me that it is the leaf that won't let go of the tree, not the other way around. The tree has done it's job to cut off life to the leaf. There is nothing left for the tree to do!

Sometimes it is necessary and good to work toward a change. Committing to that new pattern of behavior and really trying hard until it sticks. But sometimes the more you think about a thing, the more difficult it is not to do it.

Okay - I dare you to stop thinking about that blue ball!

Did you stop?

Sometimes all we are able to do is agree deep down in our spirit that we are willing to change even if we don't know how to do it on our own. And then we have to give up on the trying. Our focus has to shift.

Instead of looking at the dark dead leaf, we turn and look at the blue sky just beyond it.

And we rest.

Until one day. One day when that thing hasn't crossed your mind in a very long time you'll look back at the tree and the dead leaf will be gone. And in its place will be a hundred tiny green buds full of life.

You didn't have to do a thing except say yes.

Yes. I choose life.

"Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty"  ~Zachariah 4:6


  1. YOU are such an INSPIRATION in so many ways...thank you! your work is so WONDERFUL for lack of one hundred ways to describe!

    1. Wanda thank-you for stopping by to read my post and leave such a kind comment!

  2. Crystal Neubauer, you are my favoritest writer. I can't wait to own a shelf full of books by you, so that I can read them before I sleep, tuck them under my pillow, dog ear them, and carry them in my purse with me and mark them up with my own doodles and thoughts. I am so glad that you choose life. This is a much funner ride with you here by my side!!! SMOOCH!

  3. so beautiful! The spirit is willing and change will come. Ask for it. That helps too

    1. So true Wen. We have to be willing to speak up and ask too. Thanks for stopping by to read!

  4. Wow! What she said. Been there. Laura

  5. Absolutely spot on! Amen.