The Imposition of Change
Last week (Saturday, in fact) change was imposed upon my family. My eldest has been working from home for the past two months. As I head to my office, he sits down in front of two or three monitors, talking heads appear, and he is occupied for some 45 hours a week. But not this week. On Saturday, John loaded his car and drove to Philadelphia to become a tenant of a small apartment in a part of the country brand new to him. Very soon, the talking heads on his screen will become fully physical inhabitants of offices surrounding his own.
I am not sure if I am more concerned about the change he is enduring or the change our home-life must endure in his absence. Erik, John’s younger brother, left us not two weeks earlier to continue his college studies at Tennessee Tech rather than UTC. Again, I am not sure if I am more concerned about the change he is enduring or the change our home-life must endure.
Some of this imposition of change is subject to personal temperament. To me, change is a bit of a slippery interloper that feels like discovering a frog in your car while driving at 45 m.p.h. The everyday life of the Jones house now includes just Karen, Linnea, and me. With the boys being gone, flow, routine, conversational subject matter, tv and music selection, chore distribution, dinner menu, and a host of other matters take an altered expression. One change alone is largely immaterial. Who cares? But taken together, home-life at the Joneses already feels different. To someone like me, it feels like the car is chock full of frogs.
Of course, you know very well that our church family is also experiencing the imposition of change. The departure of Pastor Mullinax will be felt not just in one experience at a time but in a collective sensation. He won’t be available in his office, he won’t be in a meeting to speak wisdom, he won’t be receiving the walk-in with mercy needs, he won’t be arranging new-member interviews, and a thousand other actions that, taken individually, don’t represent much change. Taken together? We will, all of us, feel this.
Must change always be an imposition? To be sure, the change of seasons is a part of God’s creational purpose. He introduced divinely scripted change to His creation as season rolls into season to promote the life of His creatures, vegetative and animal. There is also the kind of change for which we have no ready rationale, but we know to be still in God’s careful and purposeful hands. The physical decay, the rise and fall of kingdoms, the variety of human relationships, and the vicissitudes of our own emotional state are all changes sheltered by His cupped hands and directed by His eternal wisdom.
We live in an age full of, as one apologist puts it, an “inane enthusiasm for change.” (F. Spufford, Unapologetic, 196) As I reflect on changes to both my natural home and my church home, I would like to remind us of a certain kind of change that ought to be welcomed. I am not necessarily pleased with two of my three kids leaving mom and dad’s 24/7 physical presence. Nor am I necessarily pleased with a wise and experienced shepherd departing the office of Congregational Care Pastor. But the displeasure has more to do with the imposition than it does with God’s sovereign purposes in change. He is well in control even as our lack of control makes change feel like an imposition.
Consider individual and corporate sanctification. In this fallen world, sanctification necessarily, by definition, represents change. As Christians, we are no longer conformed to the patterns of the world. (Romans 12.2) We are being brought along by God’s will into more and more holiness (Philippians 2.12-13) through ordinary means. (Colossians 3.16; Hebrews 10.25) Grace and peace have a capacity for multiplication (1 Peter 1.2) even if this sometimes stings us. (Hebrews 12.10) Walking through life as Christian people ought to involve a little change. (Psalm 1.1-2) As such, change cannot always be an imposition, can it?
I have already recommended Constance Walker’s wonderful translations of the Les Adieux sermons of Adolphe Monod. These sermons (more like devotions) were preached to his family and closest friends as they gathered in his tiny bedroom. In a matter of weeks, he would die in this same bedroom. As he endures the imposition of change, the slow decay of his body, he astoundingly elevates the value and beauty of sanctifying change. Imagine his creaky voice:
If we were able, each one of us, beginning today, to sense in our heart the enormity of our sin, the fullness of our pardon, and the power of the holiness to which we must attain, what a change in our life, what a healthy influence for the church itself. (Living in the Hope of Glory, 7)
Let's attempt something together. Join me in entertaining the possibility that the change unfolding at CPC is change guided by God Himself for His own glory and our own good. It is not imposition. Karen and I are attempting to do this very thing in the throes of change in our family. Just like you, we sincerely believe in the wise purposes of our heavenly Father who knows precisely how to guide us and grow us.
~ Pastor John Jones