Emotions/Healthy Mind/My Life/Teen Life/Transitions Making A Way in the Wilderness: Embracing Change by Jay Martin It was the spring semester of my freshman year when everything seemed to fall apart. My first semester of high school hadn’t been too bad – I had made the basketball team, gotten pretty decent grades, and had made a few friends along the way. But in January of 2008, I found myself facing my second knee surgery due to a basketball injury, rapidly falling grades and a much more hostile environment around my “friend” group. My mood and outlook for the future was pretty dreary as everything piled up. I didn’t want to pray, I didn’t want to study and it was hard to find any positives at all when you are stuck on crutches and are constantly bullied. I quickly became secluded, pessimistic and nearly friendless. What did I have to look forward to? Where was I supposed to find motivation to keep going? For all I knew this is what all of high school was going to be like – stuck being the broken kid who it was easy to make fun of, never amounting to anything of worth. My self-esteem and faith were in the dumps; It all seemed downhill from here. Turning The Page As the semester progressed, things started to turn around. Physical therapy helped me ditch the crutches, my English teacher, Mr. Killam, helped me improve my grades, and I cut out of my life people who enjoyed tearing me down more than building me up. Slowly but surely, progress was made. My outlook on the future also started to change – I had been so caught up in the bleakness of the immediate page that I had failed to think about the entire chapter of life I was in. The stagnant feeling my life had started to take on was escapable; it wasn’t going to last forever. Sitting in the chapel one day, I realized the truth: that rough patch wasn’t what all of high school was going to be like. Yes, there were going to be ups-and-downs throughout high school, and all of life for that matter, but no matter what happened, I could persevere in the long-run. That spring semester was a very tough time to endure, but once I started to focus on the big picture, I recognized an incredibly important fact: I can change. The Power of Change Recognizing you have the ability to change is like realizing you have a superpower. Whether it be social skills, studying abilities, waking up on time or any other traits, these can all be developed and improved – you’re never truly as stuck as you might think you are. A recent study from a professor at the University of Texas even suggests that teenagers who are able to recognize their ability to change can use that as a powerful coping skill to handle stress, insecurity and other anxieties or pressures. In part of the study, two groups of students were assigned stressful tasks: give a five-minute speech about what factors make teenagers popular, and then count backwards, out loud, from 996 – by sevens. Before the tasks, one group of students participated in a reading and writing exercise intended to instill in them the basic fact that people can change, while a second group didn’t. Brain studies after the tasks showed that the group who participated in the change exercise prior to the stressful tasks had significantly less blood-pressure reactivity and a 10% drop in cortisol levels, which is a stress hormone. Meanwhile, the other group that didn’t learn about the ability to change saw their cortisol levels increase by 45%. These results show that the students who knew it was possible to change were able to cope, adapt, and handle the stress that they faced. In the words of Albert Einstein, “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” Rivers in the Wasteland When something stressful comes up in your life, do you believe you can get through it? And if that answer is at first no, do you believe that you can change in order to eventually get through it? This is the question we need to ask ourselves. For you, it might not be a sports injury, or issues with bullying that are causing a dreary outlook on the future – maybe it’s a fear of not being smart enough to get into the college you want, or feeling betrayed by a friend because of a guy or girl you both liked. Whatever the situations are, the important thing to remember is that you can change, as can other people around you. Don’t let anyone tell you you’re “not good enough”, “you won’t ever amount to anything”, or “you’ll always be like this.” God did not create us as pre-programmed robots, He made us to have free will and the abilities to learn, grow, adapt, and adjust. We all have the ability to change, because we are all loved by a God whose grace and love for us is unchanging. “See, I am doing something new!” Isaiah 43:19 reads. “In the wilderness I make a way, in the wasteland, rivers.” If God can make a way through the wilderness of my freshman year of high school, then He can most definitely flow a river through any wasteland in your own life. If you desire change in your life, look to Him. The One Constant Whether it’s changing names (i.e. Abram, Sarai, Simon, etc.) or changing hearts (Saul, Paul, Thomas, etc.), our God is well-versed in both bringing about change while remaining constant Himself. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever,” says Hebrews 13:8. While the rest of the world will fade away and turn to dust, Jesus Christ is the one constant. If you’re facing stress or feeling stuck in a discouraging situation, have hope! There is only one thing in this entire world that is a guarantee (hint: it’s not that you’ll never be able to be happy with your reflection in the mirror or you won’t get to be proud of your report card). It’s that God loves you, and is right by your side as you strive to change, and to conquer whatever comes your way. “For I, the Lord, do not change, and you, sons of Jacob, do not cease to be.” – Malachi 3:6. Read more about the study here.