Early on in our pastoral ministry my husband and I visited an elderly couple in a beautiful new unit they had recently moved into.
They had sold their long-standing family home in order to enjoy a new season of their lives. No longer encumbered with maintenance of an old, rambling property and filled with the hope of spending more time with family and friends, it was surprising that our time with them was punctuated with grumbling about how they hated everything about it.
With the sun set to rise on 2021, we must embrace the positive change ahead.Credit:Erin Jonasson
They were grieving the loss of familiar space and the memories attached. They couldn’t see any beauty in their surroundings, even though the garden around them was bursting with spring colour. Change, even though it had been their choice, had “robbed” them. They could see nothing positive as they looked through the eyes of grief.
As we walked to our car, I commented to my husband: “Bill and Enid* don’t handle change very well, do they?”
It was an expression that came back to haunt me over the ensuing decades, becoming something of a family mantra when things didn’t quite turn out as we had planned. With change being inevitable across all walks of life, it was a statement I grew to hear a lot. I’m the first to admit I don’t find change easy, and adapting is often a long, slow process for me.
Even when change is instigated by us, it brings the unexpected with it. How we respond when control is stripped from us and we are dragged into situations and experiences we would never choose for ourselves is critical.
When the current of change is swirling around us, capturing us and pushing us along, we need to find a stable platform. There are times when one’s personal – rather than the communal – faith is necessary. This year, when faith and other communal gatherings were on hold, we were left with our own resources to negotiate the change.
We have been forced to sift through our former lives and communal identities, to discern what is needed for the time when things return to whatever the new normal is. The thought of this is exciting and liberating for some and terrifying for others.
There’s an old saying that the last seven words of the church are “we have always done it this way”. For some time now, “this way” has not been possible, challenging us to think creatively about our own faith and values, and the type of community we need to support and nurture one another. It is of the essence of faith to move into the new, embrace the questions and be reshaped for a new future.
Bill and Enid aren’t the only ones who don’t handle change very well. But with grace and humour we can embrace a faith which enables us to negotiate uninvited change and reach a new place of discovery and growth.
*Not their real names
Evelyn Heard is a Melbourne writer.
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