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Change the Definition

“ transformed by the renewing of your mind...” Romans 12:2

“Mom, do I have to go?”, I whined. At 13, on a beautiful summer day, the last thing I wanted to do was go with her to visit some old lady whom I barely knew. My fertile mind was blooming with opportunities for the day, and none of them included seeing Sister Johnson.

But alas, I wasn’t given a choice. So off we went to offer condolences to Sister Johnson on the death of her mother.

We entered the somber, darkened house, with drapes closed and only a lamp or two on. I was promptly told to sit down, and the very eloquent look from my mother added an unspoken “And keep your mouth shut!” I plopped down on the plastic covered couch, my legs (in the dress I was forced to wear) sticking to the seat. And endured.

Later, when I asked why, and why me (after all, my younger sister hadn’t had to go), the answer was that I needed to learn.

As a teenager, perhaps what irritated me most was that I felt that my parents cared more about others than they did about me. My father, the pastor of our church, made time for his congregation, but never found time to come to my track meets or speech competitions. My mother, who, over the years started a school, a youth afterschool program, and a homeless shelter, also seemed to be more focused on them than me.

In my limited mind, with my limited perspective, they didn’t love me. Not really. Oh, I had all of the basic things, food, shelter and clothing, but my heart was longing to feel love in the way I had defined love. And that was the problem.

It wasn’t until years later that I figured it out. After particularly trying months of leading negotiations, the multi-million-dollar deal had signed. I was talking to my daughter about it, and she asked me if I felt a sense of satisfaction now that it was over. My response was, not really. I wasn’t pleased with certain aspects of it because I hadn’t accomplished all that I had set out to.

It was at that point that she uttered these fateful words: “Mom, you need to change your definition of success.”

And she was right – for me and for a whole bunch of folks. We often need to change, not just our definition of success, but of relationships, of husband/wife, of service, of Christianity, of parenting, of love. Way too often we let our predetermined objectives and measurements get in the way. And sadly, quite frequently, our conclusion is that if it didn’t end up the way I wanted it to, it failed.

As you read this, I encourage you to revisit the areas of your life you feel are failing. Is it time to reexamine your definition of success? Perhaps you’re putting unrealistic demands on others. Or yourself. Maybe you need to consider the extenuating circumstances. Is an alternate path in order?

Many years later, I realized that my mother had been showing me love in the way she thought best. She was training me to be a compassionate, outwardly focused servant of God. She taught me to put my own selfish desires on hold. She demonstrated a life of putting love in action. And although she didn’t do it perfectly, her motives were in the right place.

And I had finally learned. I discovered that things weren’t always about me. That, in ministry, my plans often had to a take back seat to the hurts and pains of others. That compassion comes in all sizes and flavors and often involves discomfort much greater than having to wear a dress and sit on plastic covered couches.

So, I changed the definition.

Prayer: Father, we pray for transformation. Help us to clearly see the areas where preconceived definitions may have held us back. Please help us to release our own stubborn requirements so that your perfect will can be done in our lives. We humbly pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Evangelist Elizabeth Rooks

Abundant Life Baptist Church

Denver, CO

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