Sunday, June 19, 2011

Retreads: Change We Can Believe In

I wrote this blog post in March of 2010 on how persons on the autistic spectrum don't like change and how that relates to the modern Mainline Protestant congregation.

In my short time as an ordained minister, I am finding one the most challenging things to take on is congregational transformation. It's one thing to plant a church, quite another for a 133 year-old church to change some of the things its been doing.

In my 17 months at First Christian, I know that people approach change with fear and trepidation. It's scary. It's the unknown. It might lead to people leaving the church.

Change is scary because it wrenches us out of our well-worn ways of doing things. It takes us out of our safe routine. It's just damn uncomfortable.

Believe me, I know. I don't like change.

It's funny how this fear of change so relates to me, especially since my Aspergers diagnosis. One the traits of this form of autism, is that I tend to follow some well worn ways of doing things. I don't like surprises. I don't like things messing up my ordered life.

So, of course I end up with a life partner that lives life at the spur of the moment.

For someone who is autistic and likes his very ordered life which calms him to have someone in your life who loves to be spontaneous can seem like a nightmare.

But as hard as it has been to deal with all this change, I have to say it has its good points. Daniel's spontaniety has helped me see a world that I might not have ever seen if left to my own devices.

Case in point: two years ago on Memorial Day, Daniel and I came home after spending a weekend visiting his siblings in North Dakota. His brother John and John's wife, Julie were expecting the birth of their first child. That Tuesday morning, was supposed to be a regular day where we go back to work-except that it wasn't. Instead we got a call early that morning from John indicating that Julie was ready to have this baby. That meant that Daniel and I would head back to North Dakota to see the baby. I think the look on my face must have been one of fear. I know I felt that way. My neat little world, my plans were ruined. I know that bothered Daniel. But as I later learned, sometimes taking a step outside of our comfort zone can lead to a great adventure.

I went with Daniel. And I got to hold John Luke who had only been born a few hours earlier. It was truly a wonderful experience, even though it through me for a loop.

Over time, I've learned to try to be more accpeting of change. It still isn't easy. It never will be for me. But through those hard experiences, I get to experience new things that I never would have known. I can do this because I have someone who loves me and cares for me and is with me as I traverse this trying crossing.

I tend to think churches don't like to change for some of the same reasons. We are afraid of upsetting our apple carts that we have grown accustomed to. We are afraid that people might get mad and leave.

But I think that in not changing, we might miss what God wants to show us. We might miss what new mission God is calling us to. God tends to be a God that wants us to experience all these great things. I can see God acting like Daniel in this very extroverted way, wanting to show us all the great things that are in store for us.

For me, I had to trust Daniel. I had to believe that he had nothing but the best intentions for me. It was then and only then that I could take those steps in faith.

For a faith community, it is about trusting God and believing that God has nothing but the best intentions for us.

We can believe in God because God loves and and wants the best for us.

So then, maybe we should be willing to change knowing that God is there with us every step of the way, holding our hands and opening our eyes to a world we have been too scared to see. Maybe we can try to not be so scared of change because in the end, it's change we can believe in.

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