Constant change is here to stay
Over the last seven days those who use the social network site Facebook have seen some changes to their profile pages. These changes have caused some ripples and waves as people switch on and without any prior warning have had to come to grips with a total new outlay and in some minor ways totally different ways of seeing information and communicating. People’s profile statements were full of negative comments of not liking the changes and wanting to go back to how things were before. Although I never got to the place of publicly writing about how I didn’t like what I was seeing I too felt as if my personal page had been invaded without invitation and that things were too different now to get to grips with. I think the fact that these changes came without warning also added to the discomfort of the experience. One day it was as it had been, the next it looked completely different. How dare the people who own the site do this to us. There were people even threatening to leave and join other network sites (isn’t that in reality creating even bigger upheavel and change?). Then a thought came to me, in the past I would have called it a Word of the Lord, but it popped into my head and yes was probably inspired by Him. ‘Strange that even all the change makers don’t really like making changes.’ As I thought about it I realised how true this statement was, I love initiating change. I love having ideas on how to do something differently. I love doing things for the first time when I choose what to do. When I had the tag of ‘pastor’ I loved messing with the furniture, sometimes literally as I put chairs in circles instead of having rows. Moved the ‘holy’ table that was used for the bread and wine of communion. Took down the ancient plaques for long gone dead people and replaced them with banners. Just like the Facebook owners much of this I just did without consultation. One week the people sat in rows, the next time they opened the doors the chairs were in a circle. I was comfortable because I initiated it, but everyone else! When change is forced on us we feel unprepaired and uncomfortable. No wonder I made so many people angry because that was only the furniture I changed, I also fiddled with meeting times, worship styles, meeting content, leadership structure etc. None of this went down well. As someone used to joke, how many Pentecostals does it take to change a light bulb? Change? Yet one thing I am grasping on this journey outside the walls is that change is inevitable. It has to be embraced. Not the change I want to enforce on others but the change around me. Often coming without warning. Many times I am unprepared for it and yet to embrace the life and breath of God is to embrace the ever shifting landscape around me. Just like embracing the changes that have taken place on Facebook. I am not in charge of it so what right have I got to complain when changes come, I need to try and adapt and embrace what is there. The same with life, I am not in charge of it so any shifts and changes that come need to be worked through and embraced as much as possible. Or I may end up missing the true reason for the shifts that are going on.
Four year maker point
This month four years ago my life took on an incredible shift. I started working for Asda in September 2007. I had resigned from paid ‘pastoral’ work in church life and went in a completely different direction. At the time it was almost thrust upon me as I virtually turned my back away from church due to hurt, disillusionment and the situation I had found myself in. And yet in reality I was turning towards the life that God desired at the time. Change!!! My life wasn’t just turned upside down, it was turned inside out, thrown against a wall, stepped on, twisted and made totally unrecognisable almost over-night. And what made it worse was that I had not planned for this type of change. I had no plans. I had no direction or vision. There were no prophecies or Words to hold onto. Here I was in Asda angry with the world, the church and with God. The life I had known for nearly 20 years had disappeared without trace. ‘Friends’ no longer were around. The comfort of the circle of life that I had known was gone. The stage for my sermons and messages had gone. My life was buzzing with activity and people one minute, now I felt alone and isolated. I lived every day to bring vision and direction and live freely in God, now I had to work for someone else. I could take time off when I wanted to, now I had to book holidays and work at Christmas and work to the shift pattern I was given. No wonder I nearly blew a fuse, thought I was breaking down, cracking up, depressed, rejected. My life was shaken, my marriage was rocking, my faith was dwindling, my outlook was bleak. It was all falling apart and I had no control over it. But hang on, isn’t that the key word in all this business about change. CONTROL. Change is fine as long as we control it. But then surely if we are in control of our changes then we don’t need a reliance on God. It is to do with the self inside us all. A self that has no trust outside of themselves. I had to experience an awakening while I was alone in a hotel room, come to my senses, to discover God inside the mess. As David discovered ‘even if I lay my bed in the depths you are there’. He was there. The signal was a bit faint but He was there. The preacher who preached about shape shifting to the ‘church’ had to embrace the great Shape Shifter. The change maker had to embrace the concept of making changes. Life would never be the same again. There was no longer any Plan A or B, just trust, faith, light, love, freedom, embrace, intimacy.
The Embrace that brings Healing
Here I am four years later. Still not fully seeing what is ahead but clearer about where I am. Embracing the day for what it brings instead of trying to get it to fit in with my outlook. I struggled for a while with working the night shifts of Asda, thought God would open a fresh door of ministry that would pay the way outside of church life but still speaking, talking, writing etc. To my shame thought the manual work was below me. No wonder I was so angry and frustrated. I can honestly say as time has gone on I have learned to embrace where I am. I am content. Allison asked me just last night, am I happy where I am right now? Is this it for me now? I am happy to be where I am. I am open to change but I truly believe where I am is where God wants me to be. I have no ambition to be doing anything else other than discovering God where I am. The embracing has brought healing. I am no longer angry with anyone. I love God more now than ever. I love people of this world with a passion. I love the church, even the parts of it that I thought were out to hurt me, because I realise now that most of the hurt is because people are only reacting to what we all react to, change! Does that mean I never feel pain or hurt or rejection? Of course not, I’m only human. But instead of embracing the thoughts and feelings I walk through them as much as I can. Does that mean I embrace all change all the time? If only. Change will always rock the status quo and boy do we all have more status quo in us than we realise. Yet I have learned that change is my friend and not something to keep contending with. As I said at the start, constant change is here to stay, so I may as well love it, live it, embrace it, work through it. Who knows where it may lead me next. Here’s to the next four years.