Each one, as a good manager of God's different gifts, must use for the good of others the special gift he has received from God. (1 Peter 4:10)

Faithful to Change

Recently, I wrote about my decision to leave the convent, and how I felt, at the time, that staying would be a kind of betrayal of what God had made me — that I would have to change, become a different sort of person, in order to live that life.

At the time, I thought — in all my 19-year-old wisdom — that we are called to be true to ourselves as God created us.

That kind of thinking requires that we define creation as a static situation. That kind of thinking denies the possibility — and the benefit — of change.

When I left the convent, I did not understand how necessary change is in our lives — how essential it is to growth. And when I left the convent, I had no understanding of the transformative nature of God’s love.

Early in my studies of change management in the business culture, I used the analogy of stagnant water to demonstrate how change is essential to beneficial growth. When water is stagnant, only one type of growth is possible, and it’s of a kind that chokes off life. When water is moving, it supports all kinds of growth — fish and plants in and under the water, and plants and animals on the ground that is nourished by the flowing water. All is light and reflection and motion and freshness; constant change supports constant growth.

I became enamored of change. I welcomed it, and sometimes I created it. People around me feared that I was a “change junkie,” that I went too far beyond managing change and lived in a space where change for the sake of change was the norm. Whether or not that was the case, I became adept at living with change. My ability to adjust quickly to change and to overcome natural resistance to it meant that I was generally happy and pretty unflappable.

As time went on and I began to grow in faith, I set aside my thoughts about change. Faith, I thought, was a wonderful constant in a shifting world. Living in faith, I knew what to expect and I would experience life without the turmoil of uncertainty and constantly shifting views. I saw faith as something that, ideally, was unshakeable — and, therefore, had nothing to do with change.

That actually worked, for awhile. And then I experienced a couple of major shifts in direction in my life that caused me to start wondering if my past study of change and the ideas I had developed might have some application in this new world of faith I was experiencing.

Certainly it was true that I was experiencing faith itself in an entirely different way from what I experienced as a very young woman. When I looked back at my time in the convent, I recognized that during those years, I saw faith as a set of practices and rituals — a response to rules and obligations, really. And that’s why I found myself on the outside of the main entrance to Maria Immaculata Convent, back in 1966. I wasn’t prepared to live in response to a set of rules and obligations.

Beginning with my return to the Catholic Church in 2012, my experience of faith took a very different form. With sudden and uncharacteristic insight, I realized that faith was a response to love, not to obligation. Faith was a living, growing, flowing thing that supported life and grew from love — and in a small explosion of enlightenment, I saw that faith was the ultimate definition of change!

This new understanding of faith as a culture of change began to flourish when I saw how Jesus, in His coming as the promised Messiah, turned everything the people of Israel had anticipated upside down. I think this is illustrated by three main truths:

  • First, Jesus came as a humble workman from a poor family — far from the kingly warrior the Jewish people had come to expect as their Messiah, based on their interpretation of the promises delivered through the prophets. His mission was to save them from the oppression of sin, never mind the oppression of conquering nations.
  • Second, this Jesus Who revealed Himself to them as the promised Messiah chose death by the most humiliating form of torture and execution possible in that time, as the means of redeeming His people from their sins.
  • Third, as I learned from a recent homily, throughout his public ministry, Jesus repeatedly restored sight to people who had been born blind. This kind of healing had never occurred before. Old Testament prophets foretold this restoration of sight, but although some prophets had raised the dead, there is no record in the Old Testament of giving sight to a person born blind. This kind of healing — and what is healing, but a profound change? — is unique to Jesus.

In reflecting on these ideas, I begin to see Jesus as the ultimate bringer of change, and I begin to see faith not so much as a defense to the foibles of the world around me as a way of responding to the changes that God offers me as a means of staying alive and flourishing in my relationship with Him.

Now, when I look back at that turning point when I decided to leave the convent, I recognize that God was indeed calling me to change in profound ways. It has taken me many years and repeated promptings of His grace to recognize that and to see how He continually calls me in faith to respond to the change He desires to accomplish in me, perhaps through me in the world.

You see, something I lost sight of at some point is that my human nature is, left to its own devices, essentially sinful. Whatever we may believe about the story of original sin told in the book of Genesis — fact or allegory — the truth is that in a misguided exercise of free will, mankind separated itself from God and chose to sin. Jesus came to repair that separation, to heal that breach, and to teach us that living in the grace of His Spirit requires us to constantly seek to change in response to His call.

And so, my way of thinking about change has come, in its way, full circle. Change is essential for life to flourish — the spiritual life, in faith, as a response to God’s call. All is light and reflection and motion and freshness; constant change supports constant growth. God’s call is to transformative change — change that cuts to the very essence of our being. And that requires us to own this change and to focus our energy, the life force that we have through God’s grace, on the things we can do something about.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: