After spending my adult life joyfully single, last fall I got married. The biggest adjustment for me was learning to share my space with others. I’d lived alone for years, and I knew exactly how I liked things. Everything in my house had a proper place, and I knew just where to find things.
One day not long before the wedding I came home from a long meeting. I’d been away all day, and I was trying to catch up on things around the house, so I started trying to put some of the dishes that had been drying up in the cabinets. Except, nothing was right. The silverware was in a new drawer. The plates had changed cabinets. The pots and pans were AWOL. And so, I stood in the kitchen, casserole dish in hand, and did the only logical thing: I got mad at my fiancee and said, “Why is nothing in the right place?”
It was, of course, not logical to get mad at her. She is the far better cook of the two of us, and she uses the kitchen far more than I do. She had rearranged the kitchen in a way that actually made sense to a cook, and not to a bachelor who preferred the counter at the local diner. And, beyond that, there were far better ways to voice my confusion than to grumble at her. Really, it was not my finest moment.
After I apologized I thought about my reaction. I see a similar one in churches sometimes. A new pastor comes, or a new committee starts an initiative, and people don’t understand why things are changing. Sometimes they even lash out at the change-makers. Even healthy congregations go through this from time to time.
But a healthy congregation, like a healthy marriage, needs to be able to accept positive change, and to adapt to changing circumstances. It’s a sign not only of organizational health, but of spiritual health. If Christ truly calls us to discipleship, and if he truly calls us to leave behind everything we know and follow him, it means that sometimes we are going to have to learn to deal with change. Whether it’s a small thing, like a rearrangement of the cabinets, or a big thing, like a church merger, sometimes it’s the right choice. Even if we don’t like it much.
In the end, though, we might just find that the change is worth it. That day I got frustrated at my partner, I failed to see that she had spent the afternoon cooking my favorite soup and making dessert. I was so caught up in the fact that things weren’t the way they had always been, that I missed all the good stuff. I’m aware that I probably do that far too often in my life. I think a lot of us do.
In Lent, I’m looking for the positives in the places of change. I’m looking for the new life that God has brought from what wasn’t working anymore. And, I’m letting go of what doesn’t work in order to celebrate what does. The more I learn to let go, the more I find the joy of Christ in what comes next…at home, at church, and everywhere.