Change is not easy. Or maybe it’s better to say that for most of us, for most of the time, most change is darn difficult. Think about it; doing the same thing we’ve done for months or years, the same way, not really having to think about it much, not having to consider whether it was a healthy way to eat, or a helpful way to act, or a kind way to speak, or an ethical way to be because let’s face it–whatever we were doing and however we were doing it was good enough–change brings an end to the comfort of not having to look too deeply into our lives. Suddenly we are unable to continue as we were. The heart attack, or stroke, or death, or divorce, or unemployment, or relocation, or advancing years, or the presence of infants and school loans, or the marriage, or the financial shift, or the retirement, or the retired rector has required a change in how we are in the world.
Situations like these can have moments of high anxiety, a feeling of powerlessness, a sense of being ungrounded or a sensation that suddenly no one is at the wheel of the bus on which we’re all passengers. When we look deeper–if we look deeper, because let’s face it, we’ve all navigated change in the past without doing it–what we find is something very different, however. When we look deeper, we find that there are some basic truths to the Universe, some basic principles, the effect of which we can escape only for so long before they start to catch up with us. When we look deeper, we find that change is neither good nor evil, it is neutral and constant. When we resist change, that is the point when we create more suffering in our own lives, and provide increased opportunity for suffering in the lives of others.
When we look deeper, we also find Jesus’ summary of the law, a simple statement with a profound implication for our lives. When Jesus tells us that the single most important thing we can do in our lives that is the very foundation for absolutely everything else is to love ourselves, our neighbors, and our God, we discard this wisdom at our own peril. What Jesus was saying wasn’t a polite request, nor was it an insurance policy against the threat of eternal damnation, it was an observation on how to live a good life with maximum joy and peace and minimum suffering, anxiety, rage and regret.
When we truly love ourselves, we treat our bodies and our minds with respect, graciously allowing ourselves a balance of work, rest, and recreation, ingesting food, drink and ideas that suit our needs. When we truly love ourselves, we are free to experience and express our intense emotions and don’t need to self-medicate that lack with overeating, the excessive consumption of alcohol, the abuse of drugs, the consumeristic need for more. When we truly love ourselves we no longer have the overwhelming desire to take out our angers and fears on others, and instead can interact with other people–our neighbors–with a soul-deep and totally genuine spirit of love. And by doing this, we end up loving God, who might as well have a bumper sticker on the beat up Buick he drives that says ‘Love Me, Love My Creation’.
And this has what to do with navigating change? When we obey Jesus’ summary of the law (love-love-love) change is actually pretty neat. Change becomes the old friend who stops in for coffee so you two can catch up on each other’s lives. And when we’re all, every single one of us, operating from a place of deep love for ourselves, our neighbors and our God? When that happens, we can agree to disagree on a variety of things and still manage to change the world for the better (and be home in time for dinner).
[Also submitted to Christ Episcopal Church’s February 2011 newsletter, ‘The Harvest’, in Lockport, NY.]