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What Can We Change?

“If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?”

If you’re anything like me, that question tends to spark a mental whirlwind. Usually we end up saying (or thinking) something along the lines of, “Just one?”

I’ll narrow it down to physical aspects. Does that help?

Again, probably not. I’ve yet to meet someone who can’t name something they’d change about themselves, if they could.

Maybe it’s a condition. An injury. A deformity. A scar.

Something uncomfortable. Something awkward. Something downright painful.

Maybe it’s height or hair color. Shape or skin tone.

What would you change?

Personally, I’d banish my recurring nausea in an instant. A friend of mine has spent years seeking relief from migraines – to no avail. At one point, Erin, the main character from my novel, Cabin Girl, would have given nearly anything to straighten her crooked spine.

Sometimes we really can change physical things. We can grow stronger, dye our hair, and heal from some illnesses.

But most the time, what we have is what we’re stuck with. No matter how much I resist, the only way I’m going to grow four inches is by wearing heels – and faceplanting a lot more. Skin color and bone structure can’t be redesigned. And a lot of diseases and conditions can’t be healed with modern medicine.

This is frustrating. Disheartening. Dealing with something we dislike is never pleasant. And the thought that the situation may never change only makes it worse.

Recently, a friend and I marveled at how each person is uniquely equipped to help others. As we discussed various giftings, passions, and backgrounds, I was reminded that the pleasant circumstances of life only form a part of this uniqueness. Often what enables someone to help others is a shared struggle.

The kid who struggles to keep up with others can be a great friend to the one bound to her wheelchair. The woman grappling with infertility can offer comfort to another with the same pain. The cancer survivor can offer hope and assistance to another, because they understand. They know what it’s like. They know what truly helps.

Toward the end of Cabin Girl, Erin reveals that she’s come to peace with her hunchback. She’s seen how her struggles with it have enabled her to comfort and help others. It’s even sparked her dream of becoming a physician.

“I don’t mind it being crooked. It reminds me where I’ve been and what I’ve learned — and where I’m going.”

Unfortunately, I’m not yet to the point where I don’t mind feeling sick. But I can also recognize some of the blessings. Without being forced to slow down and recoup sometimes, I don’t think I ever would. I’m much quicker to notice when others are feeling poorly, and my arsenal of nausea-fighting weapons is never far behind. Need a heat pack? Got your back. Peppermint oil? Here you go. Sea bands? Pick a set.

And it’s in my weakest moments, when all I want to do is curl up and cry, that my longing for Heaven is strongest. Our dissatisfactions, dislikes, and disillusionments with this world and with our bodies are the result of our deeply-rooted longing for more. For perfection. For something we know was meant to be. And it’s coming.

In the meantime, maybe we can learn to view the challenges, the struggles, the hurts, as things that enable us to help others better. Maybe we can learn to look around us and notice the people struggling with those same trials – and realize that we know how to help. What to offer. The words that will bring encouragement, and hope, and peace.

What is it you’re wrestling with? What about yourself are you struggling to love? What trials are you fighting to overcome?

How can you share what you’ve learned to encourage others? How can you help someone else to see the beauty in their imperfections? How can you strengthen and build up those in danger of surrendering the battle?

Maybe the right question to ask isn’t, “What would you change about yourself?”

I think it might be, “What about yourself can change the lives of others?”

For we are God’s handiwork,
created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do.
(Ephesians 2:10 NIV)

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