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Have you ever failed to keep a new year’s resolution? Have you ever reached your goal weight only to gain back those pounds?
In these situations, without the possibility of a new reality, you’re going to feel hopeless. Something needs to change if you want to continue to feel hopeful. But it’s even more than that. You’re only going to be as hopeful as your changes are permanent.
This is part 3 of Sean’s healing journey.
Sean’s New Reality
I ended part two of Sean’s story with him receiving a new bicycle from his small group. This experience, led by God, allowed the truth of the scriptures to sink into his heart. Now he could not only say that he knew the truth as a fact, but he knew the truth as a reality.
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.1 John 3:16-18 NIV
Pursue Your New Reality
Sean’s story illustrates that your experiences shape the way you view your identity. Your interpretation of your experiences can be accurate or inaccurate. When you go through a negative experience without a positive experience to counter-act it, the negative experience will dominate your understanding of who you are.
If you’ve gone through a time of discovering the truth, you’ll know the factual truth about your identity. Unfortunately, this isn’t enough. You must go one step further to experience a positive event that can override the negative event. Only then can you know the truth about your identity. You’ll see yourself properly, through God’s eyes.
How you interpret the events affects your long-term feelings about life. If you’re feeling depressed or anxious, it’s probably because of a negative interpretation of a negative experience. Without a positive intervention that allows you to see the truth, you might pursue destructive behavior toward yourself or others.
Review the diagram below which illustrates how a person can move from a hurtful event, to a healing process, and onto a new reality. I regularly use it with my clients to help them see how their lives became dysfunctional and how they can return to healthy living. See if you can trace Sean’s experiences through the diagram, then try an example from your own life.
A New Reality Is Possible
Personal transformation occurs on multiple levels. To illustrate this, consider what happens when you change your appearance by putting on a different set of clothes. You could change from wearing plain, worn clothes to stylish, brilliant clothes.
Is that enough to change how you feel about yourself? It might help some, but chances are, any improvement will be short-lived. Changing your clothes doesn’t really change who you are, even though others will certainly see you differently.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.Romans 12:2 NIV
The process of renewing your mind found in Romans 12:2 involves a real change in brain structure. New positive experiences rewire your brain. As a result, you might be motivated to change how you dress or pursue other outward manifestations of your inner healing.
Sometimes, you can help this process by changing on the outside first, which is also called fake-it-until-you-make-it. It’s better than nothing. But God’s Spirit working inside you is much more powerfully transformative.
Have you ever experienced this deep renewing? This true healing makes old thinking obsolete. Experiencing this transformation enables you to believe it can happen again. That’s one way to define true, biblical hope.
Once you understand how change happens, you can begin to make leaps forward. Instead of baby-steps, which often maintain too much of the old environment, you can leap forward to new ways of thinking that you didn’t know existed.
Are you excited about the possibilities of a new reality?
Matt Pavlik is a licensed professional clinical counselor who wants to see each individual restored to their true identity. He has more than 20 years of experience counseling individuals and couples at his Christian counseling practice, New Reflections Counseling. Matt and Georgette have been married since 1999 and live with their four children in Centerville, Ohio.