By Steven Norris
It was a tense moment following the Sunday morning worship. I felt like the service had gone extremely well — inspired singing, insightful preaching, and warm fellowship. I was feeling good about the whole thing…until I saw her coming towards me.
The frown on her forehead was cavernous and she informed me of her intense displeasure at one of the musical arrangements I had done in worship that day — resetting a typically somber hymn with guitar and drums. Her exact words were, “You killed that song for me!” Needless to say, that good feeling did not last long.
Reflecting back, I have come to believe that most people do not resist change as much as they resist loss. I want to invite you to do a thought exercise with me. What changes have you experienced in the past 5 years that have really bothered you?
Maybe they are related to the pandemic or our increasingly divided political landscape. Maybe they have to do with changes in your health that have put limitations on activity. Maybe you have lost someone dear to you due to death, a move, or a relationship that ended. Maybe a child has gone off to college or you have experienced a change in job status.
After identifying those changes, stop and ask yourself, “What is it that really bothers me about these situations?” My hunch is that you will find that loss plays a significant role in your discomfort — maybe more than the change itself.
The pandemic has changed the way we do church, but my hunch is that we resist the loss of familiarity and relational connection with those who have not returned. The hyper-individualism of our current political and cultural state brings with it a loss of community and oneness. Changes in health or a job may mean the loss of familiar ways of life.
The key to navigating change may be found in learning to grieve well. Western society has taught us that grieving is best done in private and we are uncomfortable with overt expressions of grief. However, learning to navigate the stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance are essential for emotional, mental, and societal health.
Not all change is bad. In the past few years, my children have grown almost a foot, are driving, have jobs, and are preparing for college. All healthy organisms grow and evolve. The key for me is learning to grieve that they are no longer children, but doing so with gratitude for the growing and evolving relationship we do have.
I wish I could go back to that moment following the worship service. I wish I would not have gotten immediately defensive. I wish I would have asked, “Tell me, what is it that you love about that hymn? How has God used it to speak to you over the years?” I may not have been able to fix it, but I certainly could have helped her take a step back, identify the source of her feelings, and connected with her on a deeply human level.
Such responses might help us all grieve a little better and change for the better as we move together towards acceptance and the Kingdom of God.