By Fr. Jake Greiner
I have a good friend from college who loves change. She is continually changing her hairstyle, the arrangement of the furniture in her house and the recipes she uses. Her family and friends have come to accept this reality. In fact, this is part of the reason that we love her.
However, when she asks for people’s opinions about the changes, the response can be mixed because most of us do not like change. In fact, many of us fear change because of how these realities can unsettle our lives. If we do not fear change, we certainly try to avoid or resist it. We want stability, not instability. We want certainties, not unknowns. We want comfort, not uneasiness.
There is definitely some justification for fear, avoidance and/or resistance to change. As many of us know, not every change in our lives is truly a good thing. However, if we get stuck in negative attitudes towards change we could be rejecting things that could truly help and aid us if we give them a try. It is fine to reject a change to grandma’s recipe for meatloaf, but it can be dangerous and destructive if we avoid changing a bad habit.
If you love change like my friend, you are supported by contemporary culture. From music to politics to technology, change is constantly extolled as being a good thing within our culture. However, the challenge with this disposition is that people can miss out on great things that are present in their lives. If something has been around for a few years and has not changed, it definitely does not mean that it’s bad, awful or irrelevant.
Furthermore, fear and avoidance can move into people’s lives through these actions because they are worried about missing out on something. It is fine to get the newest computer because it can improve your life, but it seems wasteful to have a closet full of clothes that are never worn because of how quickly fashion changes.
Change is a constant part of our lives. This is clear. If we look at sacred Scripture, biblical figures were constantly experiencing change and learning how to accept these changes. From Abraham to St. Paul, the Bible is filled with men and women who embraced change in order to serve the Lord. This reality was something that was usually difficult and required effort. However, the Bible is also filled with examples of how God’s love and mercy enabled these same individuals to accept the changes in their lives in order to cooperate with God’s divine will. Furthermore, none of these changes were accepted to be popular or powerful. Again, the desire to change was always rooted in a person’s desire to love and serve the Lord. If we are honest with ourselves, every conversion from sin to grace is based on a person’s willingness to embrace change.
Where are you in accepting changes in your life? I can honestly say that I do not like changes in my life, but I know that these realities cannot be avoided, especially if I want to be faithful to God’s call for me to follow him. However, prayer has taught me that the most important thing for me is asking this question as I look at embracing or rejecting a change: “Will this allow me to grow closer to God or not?” Most of the time, the answer to this question comes very easily, and then I have to respond. The latter is the hard part for me but with God’s grace, change can happen.
I do not want to change. Some people always want to change. However, in the end, I hope that all of us do not want to avoid God’s desire to live a life dedicated to him.
(Fr. Greiner is pastor of St. Anthony Parish in Knoxville and Sacred Heart Parish in Melcher.)