Change–or Harden

2500 years ago the Greek philosopher Heraclitus observed that “Nothing is permanent but change”. Many have since echoed his wisdom. Today it feels like the pace of change has reached warp-speed. Part of us cries out, “Make it stop!” Another part of us recognizes the wisdom of author Evelyn Waugh: “Change is the only evidence of life,” Another writer, Bruce Barton, said simply, “When you’re through changing, you’re through.”

Change is the story of our lives. Political change is front and center for most of us. We Methodists are again dancing the Methodist Shuffle, our annual denominational ritual that re-arranges pastors and congregations, hopefully for the best. Graduation time brings major change. We simultaneously celebrate accomplishment and anticipate new beginnings. We attended one high school graduation last week and look forward to another next week—which brings me to the itch I’m trying to scratch.

Next week’s high school graduate is Brianna, our oldest grandchild. She’s done very well. She has  exciting options from which to choose what comes next. Her choices will shape her life for many years. (No pressure, Bri!) We’re excited to see this next chapter of her life unfold. We’ll gladly support and encourage her as she navigates those challenging choices. It promises to be a complex and sometimes stressful process.

But Brianna, her fellow graduates, and those who share their lives aren’t the only ones swept up in massive change. Change tsunamis are creating constant turbulence in most of our lives.  One part of us says, “Make it stop!” while another part replies, “When change stops, you stop.” Some change is predictable and within our power to influence. Students choose to complete their schooling (or not), to study certain subjects, and to work and/or study and/or ??? after graduation. Our choices often carry unintended consequences—change we didn’t know we chose!  But change isn’t always chosen. Illness, accident, human-caused or natural disaster strike suddenly and transform life forever. National and global forces alter our lives without our consent. Unpredictable, uncotnrollable change frequently forces itself upon us–ready or not!

We can’t always choose the change that affects us. But we can choose our response to its effects.  This isn’t new information, but it’s critical. We may choose denial. I’ll go on as if nothing”s changed. I’ll ignore the physical symptoms I’m experiencing. I’ll ignore the financial red flags until I can’t juggle any more, I’m getting squeezed from all directions, and I’m out of options. I’ll ignore the relationship alarms as long as I can stand the pain. Churches  ignore the warning signs of empty pews, bored members, and lifeless worship until their very existence is threatened.

We may blame someone or something. Pointing fingers may make us feel better momentarily, but it doesn’t solve the problem. It keeps us locked in the past rather than moving forward. Or we may choose the simplest, easiest, quick-fix solution. We seek the fix that asks the least of us and promises the most. We  go through doctors until we find one who tells us what we want to hear–not what we need to hear. We follow the simplest, most over-promising political or religious “answer person”. Trouble is, the self-proclaimed savior with all the answers has seldom addressed all the questions.  His/her quick fixes may make us feel better fast, but not for long. The cure is more cosmetic than real. While they may promise to restore a “good old days” past. the truth is that forcing tomorrow’s issues into the mold of yesterday’s answers is virtually always a bad fit.

We can respond to change with denial,blame, or too-easy oversimplified solutions. Or we can choose to adapt and learn. In a new-church start I served, we used the F-word a lot. NO, NOT THAT F-WORD! Flexibility. Adapting and adjusting quickly became a way of life. Resources were often unpredictable. Key people got sick. Sometimes our rented facility wasn’t unlocked at the right time. Innumerable glitches jumped out and said “Boo!” On our best days we didn’t deny, blame, or whine. (OK, sometimes we did, but we got over it quickly.) We put our heads together and said, “Here we are. How do we make things work?” In other words, we adapted. We learned on the fly. We focused clearly on our purpose while staying flexible with regard to methods.

Flexibility and adaptive learning are key survival skills in a world of warp-speed change. About two hundred years ago, Johann von Goethe wrote, “We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise we harden.” When we harden, life can break us. The branches on the living trees in my yard are flexible. Branches on the dead trees have hardened. They don’t bend and flex. They break under far less pressure than those flexible, living branches can handle.

So, Brianna and your millions of fellow graduates, and all of us trying to make our way through life’s warp-speed changes, here’s a brief summary:

  • Change is a fact of life. “Nothing is permanent but change” and “When you’re through changing, you’re through.”
  • We can’t always choose the speed and direction of change, but we can choose our response.
  • The F-word (Flexibility) is essential in navigating today’s warp-speed change.
  • “We must always change…otherwise we harden.” When we harden, life can break us.

With all this in mind, let us heed the advice of an old car commercial: “Enjoy the ride!”





4 Responses to “Change–or Harden”

  1. 1 Dovie Brock June 3, 2012 at 9:30 PM

    The support of our Christian family is the best for our lifelong changes.


  2. 2 Lois June 5, 2012 at 10:51 AM

    Preach It Brother!!


  3. 3 payday loans linefeed June 20, 2012 at 4:17 AM

    I used to be able to find good advice from your articles. payday loans las vegas


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