I’m not certain when I crossed the line from being, if not eager, at least open, to change, and instead became one of those folk who grumble, grimace and bemoan why things had to be changed, seemingly for the sake of change or mere commercialism. How far I’ve transitioned into full curmudgeonliness has yet to be determined, but I’ve certainly made big strides this past week.
The cause? Windows 8. Well, the precise cause was that the motherboard in my office computer decided to pack it in, and the cost and bother of repairing this particular model meant that it was better economy to buy a new laptop. The only problem being is that such purchase meant I was thrown into the process of trying to learn the very different operating system that is Windows 8. It has not been a happy process.
I know I am not alone in being frustrated with Microsoft’s latest system – even lots of “techies” complain that the system has been difficult to learn and not at all user friendly. So while I can take some solace in the fact that many other people would gladly go back to XP, Vista or Windows 7 if they could, that doesn’t mitigate my surprise at how grumpy my reaction was, not simply to the new system, but to change.
I suppose I could chalk it up to the fact that I will be retiring in a few months, and could have been quite content to finish off my ministry here at St. Andrew’s working with a system and set-up with which I have become both familiar and reasonably adept. Except that ministers rarely retire as such and as I will almost certainly have to upgrade my home computer sooner than later, I cannot forever avoid facing technological changes.
No, I can’t explain away my grumpiness simply as a desire to avoid another learning curve prior to retirement – it was the learning curve itself which I did not want to face. I was content with the status quo and became an unhappy camper when the status quo no longer existed.
Researchers in the whole phenomenon of change have affirmed a number of truths which many of us have known experientially, the first of which is that human beings naturally resist change. While we may be glad to accept certain degrees of incremental change where obvious improvements and benefits are identifiable and the levels of adaptation are minimal, we will normally embrace change only when we either have no choice or the status quo itself become no longer tenable. Secondly, some of us are either more naturally curious or eager to embrace change (the “been-there, done-that, got-the-T-shirt, what’s-next” mentality), while others of us are inherently far more content with the known and familiar (the “if it was good enough for grandpa, it’s good enough for me” position). Yet another insight is that our readiness to make change is conditioned as much by our previous emotional experiences of change and whether those have been regarded as positive or negative as compared to a mere intellectual cost/benefits assessment. Or to put it differently, while we may cognitively acknowledge that a certain change is logical , our emotional resistances will often trump logic.
Personally, I wonder whether part of our resistance to change arises from that catastrophic human tendency to want to be in control. Just as our grandparents defied God in Eden, thinking themselves to be more competent than God in looking after themselves, is there a defiant streak of orneriness and fear within us that sees change as unsettling and threatening because it reminds us how little control of the world we really have.
As I pondered those very human tendencies, a number of scripture verses suddenly came to mind. I thought of Isaiah 42:9 in which the Lord announces to a people enslaved and in exile that he would do new things for them and with them, including calling them to be a light to the nations, a blessing to the Gentiles. I thought of Ezekiel’s announcement of God’s intent to do major surgery on their souls, replacing their hearts of stone with hearts of flesh. Or again, of the Pentecost story in Acts in which timid disciples hiding behind locked doors find themselves thrust out into the streets of Jerusalem with words of testimony and gospel upon their lips, indifferent to the potential threats from religious leaders and Roman officials. God, it seems, is the great change agent who is not overly interested in status quo. Rather, scripture points to his relentless desire to draw, and sometimes push, us into newness and fullness of life in Christ, despite our predilection to want to play life and discipleship safe, to be solidly in control of our religious responses, and to keep God in our control rather than let the Lord control us.
I certainly don’t believe every change that beckons or is thrust upon us is necessarily from the Lord. (One individual suggested Windows 8 is from the Devil, while of course many would say Microsoft is the Devil!) I also know the danger of being so indiscriminately eager for any and every “new thing” that we become “tossed to and fro by every shifting wind” of doctrine, commercial fad and human folly. But be it the endless technological shifts to which we might adapt, or any other situation of change that we encounter and must discern if and how we might respond, the deeper question is whether we are cultivating a heart attitude that will be responsive to the new into which God may be desiring to lead us: the new and deeper intimacy, the new and greater dependence on his grace, the new and more honest surrender to him of our sins and fears and brokenness, the new and more willing obedience to the call of Christ and the empowering of the Spirit.
Whether I like it or not, I will learn how to cope and navigate through Windows 8, as I will through all kinds of other changes and challenges that life will throw at me. But God, please save us from all and any grumpy, curmudgeonly resistance to the promptings and beckoning of the new, the deeper, the more of your Kingdom’s call!