The Wonderful Discomfort of Change
I noticed in his recent blog, Donald Miller (Blue Like Jazz, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years) addressed the difficulty in making changes. I’ve been thinking of that very fact lately, too.
The difficulty of change is tied to our natural resistance known as homeostasis. We resist change, even beneficial change. We and the systems we are a part of fight to keep things the way they are, even if those ways are detrimental and destructive to us and those around us.
Change is anxiety producing. Maintaining homeostasis temporarily relieves our anxiety. We typically opt for immediate gratification. Eventually, the scales tip, and we launch out into the change process. Or, an external force pushes us headlong into the change process.
I’ve heard it said that, “Until the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of change, we will choose to stay the same.”
This is challenging because God is all about change. He embarks with us on a journey throughout the life process. Any movement down that path incorporates change. We constantly come face to face with this tension between wanting to maintain homeostasis and the demand to move forward and grow.
I find my greatest challenge in the change process is faith. Is God strong enough to hold me through my change? Will He have enough grace to cover me, especially if I don’t get it right? Is God going to be there on the other end of change?
One of the more difficult areas of change is when our theology shifts. I’m convinced that the willingness to adapt our theology and doctrines are crucial and inevitable to growth. They reflect the normal progression of our development.
Many of us assume that theology and doctrine are supposed to be fixed and unchanging. But when they become rigid they don’t serve us well. Rigid things tend to break under stress. Our belief system is no different.
When we undergo inevitable changes in our belief systems we naturally feel uncomfortable. We may be embarrassed for “getting it wrong” in our earlier positions. We might be angry at those who taught us the prior doctirnal views that we now question or discard. Saying goodbye to old belief systems is like saying goodbye to an old, trusted friend. We’re not sure what to do without them. We fear the rejection of the community that helped form our beliefs. The risk of heresy stares us down and stirs anxiety.
There is no easy way through this. Change is difficult, no matter how we slice it. Transformation only occurs when we can master the anxiety inherent in the process. It’s a people growing machine.
I’ve found some ideas to be helpful in the process. One, I need to accept that change is normal, including change in my theology, doctrine and beliefs. It’s not only normal, it’s healthy. It’s part of maturing.
Two, God provides many resources for the process. Scripture and the guidance of the Holy Spirit are vital. In my experience, they were the only tools I was taught to rely on. I’ve since discovered another crucial resource–the community of faith. I can get myself in all sorts of trouble if left to my own thoughts. I need the input of others. This assumes that the community creates a gracious and safe atmosphere that tolerates questions, creativity and differences of positions.
Finally, trust that God is at work is critical. God isn’t nearly as concerned about getting it right as I often am. He’s more interested in the process than the destination. He’s much more focused on me developing into a loving and gracious man than my capacity to cross all my t’s and dot my i’s. He’s committed to leading me into all truth, and I can trust Him to fulfill His goal for my life.