"If change and growth are not programmed into your spirituality, if there are not serious warnings about the blinding nature of fear and fanaticism, your religion will always end up worshiping the status quo and protecting your present ego position and personal advantage…although Jesus’ first preached message is clearly “CHANGE” (as in Mark 1:15 and Matthew 4:17), where he told his listeners to “repent,” which literally means to “change your mind,” it did not strongly influence Christian history. This resistance to change is so common, in fact, that it is almost what we expect from religious people, who tend to love the past more than the future or the present. All we can conclude is that much of organized religion is itself living inside of “first half of life” issues, which coincides with where most people are in any culture. We all receive and pass on what our people are prepared to hear, and most people are not “early adopters.” Yet even the intelligence of animals is determined in response to new circumstances. Those who do not, become extinct.” Richard Rohr, Upward Falling p. 11
Change…not necessarily a topic that most people want to talk about. Researchers tell us that most of us are only willing to call 5% of our present information and lifestyle into question at any given point. Why is that? It is easy to get stuck. During last year’s Christmas season I read another book about the crucible of change. Most of us pattern our lifestyles and behavior off of unconscious habits and actions. Sooner or later, what we do on a repetition basis eventually becomes habit and, you know as well as I do, that habits are hard to break. Now, I have to admit, some habits are constructive even good for our lives. No one would debate that a healthy dose of truth and goodness, kindness and love, service and sacrifice does not sharpen the ability for most people to live a fulfilling life. Even so, it is not the good habits that mess up our lives. It is rather the destructive habits that we have in so many instances fallen into over time. Sooner or later, even the most faithful of us would have to admit that there are areas in which we are plain stuck.
For some, their “stuckness” comes in an inability to break a habit of anger or resentment in relationships. For others, stuckness reveals itself in some sort of chemical or psychological abuse (for negative self-esteem and self punishing is abuse that originates not from without but from within). Others are stuck spiritually…they haven’t moved beyond and deeply implanted sense of narcissism and ego gratification. Neither have they seen a steady increase of the harvest of God’s fruit of the Spirit over time. Many of us haven’t picked up a book that would challenge and inform our lives and hearts in decades. We barely understand the scriptures so we ignore them whenever possible.
You know what causes growth? Creative tension…a bit of discomfort…a tragedy…taking a risk…entering into a new relationship…experiencing something you never have experience before. Let me say this, if you are what some might call, “risk adverse” or you are overtly or covertly rigid…if you desire to “circle the wagons” around your source of superiority or preferred group or those who seem preoccupied with “clothing, titles, perks and externals of religion” than you aren’t going anywhere. As Rohr explains, “You won’t experience a world beyond your own control or explanation.” You want to know what that “world” he refers to is all about? You want to have a hint of what you would be missing! You would be missing God! You would be missing THE LIFE WE ALL WANT IN COMMUNION WITH THE LORD GOD and LIVING ACCORDING TO HIS PURPOSES AS HIS KINGDOM MAKES ITSELF REAL IN OUR LIVES. Security and stuckness keep most of us from hearing the voice of the Spirit in our hearts. That’s why those who take the step in trusting Jesus for the adventure of discipleship grow.
I want to end this devotional with another quote from a Jesus follower from antiquity. Here are the words of St. John of the Cross:
“…God has to work in the soul in secret and in darkness because if we fully knew what was happening, and what Mystery, transformation, God and Grace will eventually ask of us, we would either try to take charge (a move of the false self) or stop the whole process (a move of fear and stuckness).”
Where are you?