I, like many of my pastoral colleagues, have spent the past week moving. It wasn’t a long move (my average moves have been over six hundred miles; this one was twenty-five) but piling all your stuff in boxes and having to pile them into a new place is no picnic. A solid week later and we’re still digging through things to find and put away things on the road back to normal.
Life is change. We may hate it, may be distressed by it, may rail against it, but change will happen as long anything in Creation exists. Our existence moves through stages of order to disorder to reorder even when we aren’t aware of it. And this is true for all aspects of life—physical, emotional, and spiritual. Every part of our existence is directly affected by change.
And this is good because change is growth; growth is life.
One thing I can say about my faith experience: there has always been change. Whether it’s location or just my own development as a person and disciple, change has happened. I started my faith journey in a self-described ‘Independent, Fundamental, Pre-Millennial, 1611 King James Bible believing Baptist Church’ (it was on the church sign and weekly bulletins) and have now made my way to being a Mainline Protestant with some sprinkles of mysticism and heresy thrown in for good measure. There’s a wide chasm between those beliefs, one that took some work get across. In the end, I have to say it was worth it. My journey has been one of definitive movement. Sometimes I was looking to move. Sometimes, I simply had to move. But it’s been rare for me to stand still.
In getting ready for my next sermon series, I went looking for quotes about change and growth. I came up with, “Change is inevitable, so growth is necessary.” The quote didn’t exactly read that way. When I found this quote online, it read, “Change is inevitable; growth is optional.” Something in it didn’t set the right way with me so I modified it. The word optional bothered me at least in a pastoral sense. From the disciple’s perspective, I don’t see growth as an option. Growth is a necessity. The concept of being a disciple/follower of Jesus is built on the idea of growth as necessity.
Change is growth; growth is life.
Consider our life cycle. We are in a state of constant change. From the moment of conception, we begin to grow and develop, going through stages and changing physical form in the process. We also begin to grow mentally and emotionally, learning things like physical function, speech, and cognitive abilities. And the process never stops. We change both physically and mentally for the entire span of our lives, even when we don’t realize we are changing.
Even knowing this, we often think it necessary to guard our spiritual lives and hang onto to certain things long past their usefulness. Consider the words of Jesus, “Change your hearts and lives! Here comes the kingdom of heaven!” (Matthew 4:17). This is the central tenet of Jesus’ preaching during his ministry. The word for change or repent (depending on your bible translation) is metanoia. This word means ‘change one’s mind or purpose’ or ‘change one’s opinion and think that it is not’. The tense used gives change the meaning of you (all you guys or all y’all) change your direction or reorient yourselves toward the kingdom of heaven/God. This means that as we grow toward or away from God, we will be constantly reorienting ourselves. Think of it like walking in the woods. As you go, the trail winds around the landscape. To stay in a particular direction, you keep reorienting by a compass of the sun. In the same way, our faith journey winds around the landscape of our lives and as it does, we reorient ourselves in the direction of God. We learn new things about God, some of which might even contradict what we thought we already knew about God, which can be both painful and liberating.
Change is growth; growth is life.
When things live and continue to live well, they grow. We are no different, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. May you be willing to change to grow and may you grow well into abundant life.
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