I hate change. That would probably surprise most people who know me. I love to travel, I love to go on adventures, I am always up for trying new things; and yet there is a deeper, shadow self that hates change. I write this as I am surrounded by boxes, a sure sign that something is amiss. I am preparing to move to the first home I have ever purchased, and I am really excited… and really apprehensive.
I am leaving a home I have really enjoyed and a roommate that can be described as one of the easiest humans to be around. It is easy to see why I would be sad about this change, but sometimes I dislike change so much that I am willing to stay in situations that really aren’t God’s best for me. I have stayed in living situations, relationships and friendships all too long because I am afraid of what is out there – I am afraid of the murky unknown and the risk of newness.
I get the same sort of feeling in my stomach as I prepare to speak in front of a new group of people. I begin to worry that what worked before will not work this time. I begin to wish that I was speaking to an audience that I already knew and that knew me. At least then I wouldn’t have to re-establish myself. The newness is scary. Most times I walk away glad that I had the chance to be in the new environment and meet these new people. My life is made better by these new experiences, but at the beginning there is always fear and resistance.
Resistance to change seems to be a human attribute. I recently read this reflection on reading by German writer Johann Georg Heinzmann:
“Consuming words leads to a weakening of the eyes, heat rashes, gout, arthritis, hemorrhoids, asthmas, apoplexy, pulmonary disease, indigestion, blocking of the bowels, nervous disorder, migraines, epilepsy, hypochondria and melancholy.” (1795)
As reading began to be more commonplace, Heinzmann was afraid that the common man was incapable of handling the new responsibilities that came with reading. We as humans seem to be suspect of anything new, even if it is a good transition and change. Most of us would say that reading is not dangerous, and none of us would deny people the right to read, but in 1795 it was a real fear. From the Internet, to my grandfather claiming that blue jeans were a fad, newness can and often does meet resistance. In our personal lives and as a culture, we struggle with letting go of that which we know, even if it isn’t God’s best for us.
It is one of the odd things about faith: we may have a real resistance to change, but God does not. I think sometimes we misunderstand what it means that God is the same yesterday, today and always. God isn’t stagnant. As culture and communities flow and change, God doesn’t remain stuck. God’s character remains the same – just as it isn’t one God of the Old testament and another God in the New Testament – it is the same God. Yet we are learning more and more about God’s character. This is what got the pharisees stuck, and even got Paul a little caught up. Paul was going on what he knew to be God’s revealed truth through his faith before his demascus conversion. I think sometimes people forget that in his day and time, Paul was celebrated for sticking to his ideals and being a faithful man, persecuting the very faith that he would later embrace. We are afraid of change.
But God is not the God of the past or the God of the future, even though He is in both of those places. I think God is the God of the present. I find myself so much more satisfied when I am able to be with God in the present and not be tempted to look back and say, “those were the good days” or look to the future and say, “wow that is going to be great.”
As I pack up my memories of this house, I am grateful that wherever I unpack these boxes, God will be there. And that though situations change, and though our understandings of God change, God remains constant as a presence, helping me risk and lean into the places that often scare me the most.
Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus is the same yesterday today and always.”