These two quotes resonated with me this week. This past year has been filled with change. When the pandemic started, it changed the way we do just about everything--how we work, how we go to school, how we worship, how we shop, how we travel, how we receive medical care, how we interact with one another, how we live. Thrust into all those changes, we understood their necessity even though we could not have predicted their impact and lasting uncertainty. In some ways, we assumed they would be “temporary” changes and eventually we would return to “normal”. At different times during the year, most of us realized that “normal” will not look like it did before the pandemic, that we can’t deny the fact that things have been altered, things are different, and we can’t undo all of that. That realization holds the “difficult meaning” and carries its own weight, its own grief in the face of the losses we’ve experienced with all the changes.
Ron Heifetz, whose work on adaptive leadership is recognized and used worldwide, says “It’s not that people are opposed to change, but they resist loss.” When something changes that creates a favorable outcome for us, we’re all for that change. If the IRS comes to us, says there’s been a mistake, and they owe us $10,000, that’s a change any of us would welcome. If the IRS comes to us, says there’s been a mistake, and we owe them $10,000, well, that’s a change any of us would oppose because it’s a loss for us. Both are change.
On some levels, we understand that change is a necessary part of life. Things are constantly changing, we just aren’t always conscious of every little change. Often we see the result of change—butterflies from caterpillars, flowers from stems, garden harvest from seeds planted, children growing, seemingly overnight. When we see the result of change, we usually don’t consider the losses necessary to get that result, but there are always losses—of how things were, of previous “forms”, of space that something occupied.
As people of faith, change is necessary for transformation. If we, as individuals, want to grow in becoming more like Christ, then change is inevitable. If we, as the church, want the church to grow in becoming more like Christ so that it is Christ we offer to the world and not simply Christ overlayed on our egos, then change is inevitable. Change means that we will experience loss, personally and communally—sometimes of how things were or how they’ve “always” been done, of previous “forms”, of space that something occupied. Some loss will feel small, other loss will feel huge, and it will be different for all of us.
We don’t have to deny the losses we experience. We don’t have to pretend we aren’t sad. We don’t have to be “happy” about the process of change. As people of faith, though, we are invited to see that the same changes that produce “loss” also create space for new life, new opportunities and possibilities, new growth in the kingdom of God. As we come out of the pandemic, as we rediscover what it means to engage with the world and people around us, as we consider who God is calling us to be, we are invited to embrace changes necessary for transformation.
As my family and I prepare to embrace our new adventure, we cherish your love and prayers for all of the changes that are coming. Changes that will come with loss as we say good-bye, or “until we meet again”, to you, our Bethany family and friends, to our neighbors and school communities; as we leave the only house the boys have ever lived in, the home that has held us so well for these 16 years.
And we are praying for Bethany UMC and all of you as we all look ahead to what God is doing, and will do, in and through the body of Christ of which we all are a part. In the changes we will all experience, I take comfort in being loved and led by God who is in the business of “making all things new”; our God who does not change but who changes us, often in the reality of external changes and loss. In it all, God invites us to deepen our trust in Him, believing He sees us, hears us, knows us, loves us, and is with us through the changes. In that trust, there is strength, hope, and peace for the adventures ahead.
You will be hearing more about opportunities for us to say good-bye. I will be preaching and presiding over Holy Communion the weekend of June 6. I hope that you will find a way to worship with us that weekend, in person or online, so that we can give thanks to God for this great journey we’ve been on together!
With a grateful heart,