Friday, June 15, 2012

God: Change for Good!

I don't have a problem with change.  It's the changing I don't like.

I am going through significant changes at work right now and the stress level for me and my co-workers is at an all time high.  We were working along just fine it seemed, and then BAM! out of the blue change comes flying in like a hungry seagull, swooping, squawking, grabbing our favorite bag of chips and pooping all over everything.  Yeah, at best, change can feel like a bad day at the beach.

There's another thing I don't like about changing.  Those who implement the change (the change agents) always tell us the same things, don't they?  They flash a strained smile and say:
Change is a part of life!  Change is good! Fresh eyes.  New perspectives.  New opportunities! 
You know, all the things they tell you about change when it is being forced on you but not on them?  I call it the Mary Poppins approach - the pep talks are like the "spoon full of sugar" that helps the medicine of change go down.  The change agents who spoon you this sugar usually don't have to change themselves.  They get to sit with the sugar.  You get the medicine. And you get it whether you like it or not, although, in their mercy (read those last three words with a Monty Python voice) they'll sweeten it up a bit for you.  I know you're going to hate this sweetie, but open up, ah, there you go, open up nice and big for mommy...And they shove in the change on a spoon the size of a ladel.  It's sweet at first, but then goes immediately bitter.  Yum.  Now your smile looks just like their's did when they were trying to sell you on the change.  Fake.

In the midst of all this change at work, though, there HAS been good news.
God has been changing me for the better!
He is using this "bitter pill" to mold me into someone who is more patient, humble, thankful and with a greater trust in Him.  This roller coaster ride of change has made me grab the safety bar with white knuckles and that safety bar has been my Heavenly Father. 
My prayer life has improved, too.  This bitter taste in my mouth has reminded me to pray and to pray often.  I've found that I have been praying some of the same things over and over:
Lord, help me to know when to speak and when to shut up.
God, open the hearts of the people I work with so we can lead with compassion.
God, help me cut through this fog of sadness and see clearly.
Lord, walk with me.
Help me to be a good leader.
May each word I speak be a gift.
Jesus, help me to remember that you go before me, you are behind me and your hand is on my head. (Psalm 139)
God, help me to see where I need to change; show me my blind spots. 
Create a clean heart in me, Oh God.
Renew my spirit and help me to remember I work for YOU.
God, if I love these people, how much more do you?  Help me to do right by them.
And God if you are using this to show me that you have other plans for me, then make them plain and give me the courage to go where you lead.

I've also had some phrases and thoughts running around in my head the last while:
I don't know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future.
That which was recently taken away, was never in my hands (even though I thought it was).  It has always been in God's.  There it will remain!
Who do I think I am?  God?  He's in charge, not me!
Lord, I trust you.  You have always looked out for me.  I can't see ahead, but I can look back and see how you have always been there faithfully. Look how blessed I am!  I should stop worrying!

Some changes are more difficult to digest than others.  The one I am going through is quite painful, but nothing like the change that comes when someone dear to us dies.  That change is like being asked to swallow the ladle, not just the sugar coated medicine.  A friend of the family passed away recently. She was a vivacious, energetic, funny woman who drew people to her like a magnet.  Needless to say, she had many friends and family members who were devastated by her passing.  At her funeral, a small card was passed out to everyone in attendance. On it was her picture and a short poem, written to help us deal with the change of losing her:
God saw that you were getting tired and a cure was not to be
So he put His arms around you and whispered "Come to me"
With tearful eyes we watched you and saw you pass away
Although we loved you dearly, we could not make you stay.
A golden heart stopped beating, hard working hands to rest
God broke our hearts to prove to use
He only takes the best.

What?!?!?  Did anyone else catch that?  Read those last two lines again.
God killed this person to teach us that he only steals away the good ones (and leaves behind what, the losers)?
If so, I think I suddenly became an athiest.
Who would want to worship a sick, twisted God like that? 
I will not pretend to understand God and all of His ways, but I don't think he stole away our family friend to make a point about the difference between the "A" students of the faith and the ones who have to stay behind for divine detention.  He did not swoop in like a seagull and yank away our friend like a bag of Doritos to teach us a lesson.  CANCER stole away our friend, not God.  Abnormal cell growth killed her.  God hates cancer and his heart is broken over the way that disease stole her life and the lives of so many others.  Beyond that, I leave it to the theologians to argue.

Whether it is the passing away of a loved one, trials in our personal life, thorns in our side or workplace challenges, God uses change to bring us closer to Him, teach us something about ourselves and Him, and strengthen our perseverence and faith.  The changing that comes with getting to the ultimate change He wants to see in us can be painful and the pace can be painstaking. He is doing that right now with me.  He is doing that all the time.  He is good.  His change in me will be too.

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