Summary: We can thrive in the midst of change by relying on our unchanging God.
"There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new." -Machiavelli, The Prince, 1515
As Machiavelli understood, most of the time people resist change. Why is that? Why do we fear and resist change? And what do we do when, in spite of our best efforts, change comes barging into our lives? How do we keep our footing when the foundations of our life start to shake? How does our faith in Jesus Christ enable us to survive change, cope with change and find joy and peace in the midst of change?
I’d like to address these questions by examining an event in the life of the Abraham, who lived about 1900 B.C. It takes place when Abraham is living in Haran, a city near the border of present-day Turkey and Syria.
"The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." So Abram left, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran."
- Genesis 12:1-4 (NIV)
Why is change so hard?
· First, all change, even good change, involves "leaving." It involves separation from people, places, from relationships, from things. It involves loss - giving up things that we don’t want to give up. What did Abraham have to leave? His country, his people, and his family.
* His country - Abraham had to physically change his place of residence and go to a place far away with different laws, different customs. A different language, different food, different mode of dress.
* Have you traveled or lived in another country? Did you feel at home there?
* Differences between places were more pronounced then because of isolation. There was no mass culture to smooth out regional differences [no McDonald’s, no television].
* Also, there was nothing to give you some idea of what another culture was like, other than traveler’s tales. No National Geographic, no Fodor’s travel guides.
* His people and his father’s household - Abraham was leaving his extended family, which was very important in Ancient Near Eastern culture. They didn’t think in terms of political or geographical divisions. There were no nations as we think of them today. Their social identity was the family, the clan, and the tribe. So Abraham was not only separating geographically, he was separating socially. And in those days, when you left, it was for good. In all likelihood, he would never see them again (no telephones, no email, no Post Office).
* In short, Abraham’s "leaving" was as complete as it could possibly have been.
What changes are taking place in your life? What "leaving" and "loss" is making the change more difficult? Let me give some examples.
* When you leave a job, you may be leaving behind relationships with people you enjoyed working with ["site-specific" friendships], a set of tasks that you were good at and enjoyed doing, a window office or a nice cafeteria. You may be giving up a pleasant work routine - flexible hours, casual Fridays. You may be giving up prestige or authority. If you don’t have another job lined up, you may be losing the security of a regular paycheck or a good salary.
* When you move - due to a job transfer, for instance. You leave behind good friends, neighbors, family members. You leave behind all your contacts, the infrastructure of your life - the pediatrician your kids like, the babysitters who like your kids, the auto mechanic you trust, the shop on the corner where you like to get bagels on Sunday morning. You lose your church family. You lose your house, that you’ve spent so much time working on so that it just "fits" you and feels like home.
* When you marry or have children (although both are a great blessing), you lose some of your autonomy, your freedom, your flexibility. You can’t just pick up on the spur of the moment and drive to Washington D.C. to see the cherry blossoms. You can’t just decide at 5:00 that you’re going to dinner in downtown Cleveland. Kids aren’t like dogs - you can’t just put them in a kennel when you go on vacation. [When you have kids, you mourn the loss of your freedom, and then when they grow up you mourn the loss of their childhood, and finally when they move away, you mourn the loss of their companionship].