In grad school I had to write a paper about my personal theology of change. Basically, if I believed change was possible and how I thought it happened in a person's life. I don't really remember what I wrote, something about Jesus and cognitive behavioral therapy I'm sure, but I'd like to change my answer. If I could write it again I'd just quote CS Lewis and be done with it.
If you haven't seen or read The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader, I recommend it, even if only for this one part because it's so perfectly perfect. In it, there's a character named Eustace who is awful. He's obnoxious and rude and a hater and no one likes him. In the course of the story, due to an act of pure selfishness, Eustace is turned into a dragon. When he is finally a boy again, he explains the experience of turning back. First he says Aslan [a lion symbolizing Christ in the Narnia stories] leads him to a well and asks him to undress. Eustace recounts how he scratched and peeled the dragon skin off, three different times, each time only to find more scales had grown right back. So then? I'll let you read it. Then go read the whole thing because CS Lewis is truly geniusly brilliant.
I have some thoughts.
1. I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now.
Eustace tried so many times to fix himself on his own and couldn't do it. He was desperate and powerless, but afraid to ask for help. There's always going to be fear, I think. You just have to get to a point where the fear of staying the same becomes greater than the fear of changing.
2. The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right to my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I've ever felt.
The weird thing about doing the right thing is it almost never feels right. You would think, I don't know, if you're making big, mature steps toward a better life it would feel good right away. But it doesn't. Right things are often hard things and don't feel right at all. But it doesn't mean they're wrong - it just means we've gotten attached to the not-right things, we get used to them, and the first few tears are going to feel truly, unbearably awful.
I'm not strong enough to change all by myself. I'm also not strong enough to spend my life under the thick, isolated skin of a dragon. But because a power greater than myself is willing to fight for me, I'm strong enough to endure changing back out of one. So long as I trust Jesus enough to get me there.