Jimmy Buffett, the great poet, beach bum and philosopher, wrote: “Reading departure signs in some big airport reminds me of the places I’ve been. Visions of good times that brought so much pleasure makes me want to go back again. If it suddenly ended tomorrow I could somehow adjust to the fall. These changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes; Nothing remains quite the same. Through all of the islands and all of the highlands, if we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane.”
Change is hard. Transitions are hard. So often we’d rather keep things exactly as they are, even if we are miserable, because we have such fear of what change might bring. We’d rather dance with the Devil we know (often quite literally) than make an adjustment to the unknown. Maya Angelou wrote: “Sometimes we become lethargic out of fear. It’s not really laziness so much as it is timidity. We’d rather bear the ills we have than fly to others that we know not of, when in truth the place where one is standing may be untenable, it may be dangerous, it may be stultifying and it’s better to just step on. You know, you have to move.”
The issue, ultimately, is not whether we will change or not, because even the most stubborn of us recognize that change comes no matter what we do. The world is so much bigger than we are as individuals, and try as we might, we cannot keep things just the way they are. Ultimately, there will be a change in latitude. The issue, therefore, is whether we will adjust to that change in latitude with a change in our attitude. How will we react to the constant shuffling of life? How will we live in community together? And will we help to bring about change that reflects God’s plan, or simply allow the world to change around us with no vision for a better future?
We already know that we have been commanded by Christ to love God and love our neighbor. And we also recognize that we have not fully perfected that task. Therefore, we know that we (as a community of faith and as individual Christians) must grow, we must change in order to more fully love God and love our neighbor. We should not change everything we do (and everything we are); because we also recognize that we do, in some ways, already love God and our neighbor. However, we must evaluate where we have fallen short of this goal and be open to new methods by which we might more fully complete this high calling.
Furthermore, (and I think this is most critical), we must do all that we can to assist one another (as well as those who are not a part of our fellowship) to make the difficult changes necessary to be and do all that God calls us to be and do. “It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird; it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.” (C.S. Lewis)
Helping one another change from eggs to birds can be as simple as volunteering to provide food for the youth or teach Sunday School or greeting someone you don’t know on Sunday morning. And it can be as complicated as discovering the details of God’s vision for our church and through that emerging process cooperate with one another on how we get to where God is calling us through holy conferencing and administrative meetings. With love we might learn to laugh with one another through the process. Else Mr. Buffett will be right – we’ll go insane!