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Resistance to Change

Since it was announced that I will be moving to a new assignment, I have written several articles related to change. The first one, “The Next Change”, started with the saying “change is inevitable.” For me, change almost seems a regular part of life. Yet, we can be resistant to change.

Why are we resistant to change if it is inevitable? I addressed this question in my article, “Why is Change Difficulty?” Change can be positive. If we are unhappy with the way things are, we might look forward to change. However, we may still not embrace change. Fr. Mallon offers this thought on our openness to change, “I’m reminded of a cartoon in which a man asked a group of people, “Who wants change?” All of the hands went up. Then he asked, “Who wants to change?” And not a single hand was raised” (Divine Renovation Beyond the Parish. Frederick, MD: The Word Among Us Press. 2020, page 67).

Why do we resist change even when we might want it? I think a key reason is that change brings uncertainty. As long as we stick to what we have, we know what to expect. Seeking security, we, at least I, want to have things all planned out. However, it doesn’t work that way. God knows what the future will bring. In Jeremiah 29:11 we read, “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you—oracle of the Lord—plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.” God has a plan. We need to trust in his plan.

We must be willing to change ourselves if we expect things around us to change. Fr. Mallon writes, “I have heard it said that all organizations and systems are perfectly designed to get the results they are presently getting. If this is true, then we must ask ourselves the following question: “Are we happy with the results we are presently getting”” (97).

As I write this, I wonder if someone is thinking I might one of those people who want to change everything. I am not one of them. As I look forward to my new assignment at St. Mary’s of the Lake and St. Benedict’s, I am not looking for change. I am looking to see if we are doing God’s will and doing it to the best of our abilities. If we are, then change is not necessary.

I can be one of those people who wants to have things all planned out. However, we should not let our desire for a plan keep us from acting now to fulfill our mission. As Fr. Mallon writes, “Rescue people first, and then figure out the rest” (86). As I just typed this quote, I thought of people who seem to have no plan at all and shoot from the hip. I’m not one of those people either. As I said before, God has a plan. If we shoot from the hip, we may simply be following our own way. When we pray with God and dialogue with others, we open ourselves to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Once again, balance is needed. Here it is balance between immediate action when needed and long-term vision so we know where it is God is leading us.

Yet, change can still seem difficult. We like the familiar. Here Fr. Mallon writes “As the British economist John Maynard Keynes once said, “The difficultly lies, not in the new ideas, but in escaping from the old ones” (105). Are you ready to let go of the past to move towards the brighter future God has planned for you?

As I prepare to change assignments, I find myself in an in-between place, both looking forward and still wondering about what more I can do in my present assignment before I leave. This “in-between place” can be a place of uncertainty. Fr. Mallon offers this image, “When you take a transatlantic journey on a ship, there is a certain moment when you lose sight of where you came from, and you cannot see the shores of your destination yet. Centuries ago, this part of ship’s journey was the most dangerous part” (176-177). Even now, in our modern world, I think the most feared time in change can be this in-between time. We get things moving in the right direction but we find it difficult to make it to the next level.

Change takes efforts. No pain, no gain.

Much of what I have written about change so far focuses on our own perception of the change. We must also consider how other people perceive the change. Some will welcome change. Some will resist it. For those who resist it, they do so for different reasons. Some may think things are great the way they are and so there is no need for change. We must respect that. Others make like what is proposed but, for all the reasons against change that I have already spoken of, be fearful of change. There are still others who don’t want change just because it takes effort and they want to only do the bare minimum. We are not going to make everyone happy. What we can do is to try and meet people where they are at and offer a vision for the future. We pray that our vision be what God wants.

Remember what Jesus prayed in the garden before his arrest, “Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will” (Mark 14:36).

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

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