Richard Exley Ministries

Am I the Only One Who Hates Change
Posted on June 28, 2009

"If I try to hang onto the past, to the old way of doing ministry, I will be left behind, yet that’s exactly what I’m tempted to do. Are there risks inherent in change? Absolutely, but the risks of looking back and trying to recreate the past are even greater."

I sometimes wonder what happened to the man I used to be. Friends and colleagues once described me as a man ahead of his time. Now I feel like a dinosaur. I don’t know if life is going faster and faster or if I’m just slowing down. Don’t misunderstand me; I’m not throwing in the towel. In fact, I’m running as fast as I can. I’ve even managed to get a web site replete with pod casts and blogs. I’m on facebook and twitter, but every time I learn something new it’s already dated!

I’m tempted to think that I hate change simply because I’m getting older, but then I look back over my life and realize that change has always been hard. In 1980, I moved my family from Craig, Colorado to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to become pastor of Christian Chapel. Although there were a number of challenges I was excited. As far as I was concerned it was the chance of a lifetime and yet our early months in Tulsa were characterized by a profound sense of loss.

Twelve years later we would relive the cycle all over again. This time I left the security of Christian Chapel to give myself to a ministry of writing and speaking. We built a cabin on the side of a mountain overlooking Beaver Lake in Northwest Arkansas and I started writing. After twenty-five years in the pastorate the solitude was exhilarating. Brenda and I took long walks in the woods, played table games by kerosene lamp light in the evenings, and enjoyed the warmth of the pot bellied stove on cold winter mornings. Nevertheless I could not escape a persistent sense of loss and when I thought of Christian Chapel my throat got tight.

Only later did I learn that every major change in life is first experienced as loss followed by a period of grief, even anger. Never would I have thought that a promotion and a cross-country move had anything in common with a divorce, unemployment, or even a death, but they do. Each one is a major change and is accompanied by a change in status, separation from friends and/or associates, and a period of grief. How long that grief last depends on how a person handles it. Repress it, and it will be around for a long time. Deal with it honestly, and you can speed up your adjustment and/or recovery and get on with your life.

Additionally change often requires us to face new challenges and learn new skills with the accompanying risks. I’m right there and you may be also. The way the church functions is radically changing to meet the varied and complex demands of people living in the twenty-first century. If I try to hang onto the past, to the old way of doing ministry, I will be left behind, yet that’s exactly what I’m tempted to do. Are there risks inherent in change? Absolutely, but the risks of looking back and trying to recreate the past are even greater.

Dr. Paul Tournier tells of an experience he had while staying with a friend. Each morning they would read the Bible together. On the last day of his visit they read the story of Lot’s wife, who was turned into a pillar of salt because she looked back (Genesis 19:26). Then his friend exclaimed, “I’m like Lot’s wife. My life is petrified because I keep looking back. My life is no longer an adventure, because my faith is shaken and I am not looking for God’s guidance any more.” After a brief pause he continued, “I want to start going forward again.”

Maybe you’ve been like Tournier’s friend, maybe your life has been on hold because you’ve been looking back instead of casting vision for the future. Perhaps fear is what’s been holding you back – fear of failure or even just fear of the unknown. If my experience is any indication, fear is a part of any and every undertaking, but we don’t have to let it paralyze us. We can allow fear to imprison us or we can use it to motivate us. The choice is ours!

A friend bought his young son a bunk bed and as the boy’s bedtime drew near his little body fairly vibrated he was so excited. Eagerly he started up the latter, but about two-thirds of the way up he stopped. Looking at his father he said, “Daddy, I’m afraid.”

His father tried to tell him that there was no reason to be afraid, but nothing he said calmed the boy’s fears. Finally he said, “Son, if you’re afraid you don’t have to sleep on the top bunk. You can sleep on the bottom bunk.”

The little fellow thought about it and then taking a deep breath he scurried up the ladder as fast as he could, hopped into bed and pulled the covers up to his chin. Turning to his father he said, “I’m still afraid, but I’m more excited than afraid!”

That’s the way I’ve determined to live life with its myriad changes – more excited than afraid!

This is Richard Exley straight from the heart.

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Category: Change

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