People often want to grow. They want to be better or different. At least they say that they do. I want to lose 20 pounds…until I have to pass up a piece of cake or get up early in the morning and run. I want to be closer to God…until I have to read a boring piece of scripture or God answers my prayer in a way that I don’t want.
So often we create beliefs and habits that keep us the same. We start to believe that we have always been the way we are or were meant to be the way we are. We do little things so we can feel that we are making some progress but really we are avoiding the big changes we need.
Henri Nouwen reflects at our hesitancy to change and grow. He said: “Do you really want to be converted? Are you willing to be transformed? Or do you keep clutching your old ways of life with one hand while with the other you beg people to help you change?” (The Inner Voice of Love pg 6) Nouwen points out that no longer do we hold back when we have to change, but we often ask others to help even as we are still hanging on to staying the same.
Churches can be like this too. Every church says that they want to grow but they are not always willing to pay the price for change. We want visitors until we have to give up time talking to our friends. We want people to come and give money until they also want to give opinions. We want new leaders until they feel led to change our worship or our building.
So in our churches we also create beliefs and habits to stay the same. Most of these we do not even realize. We don’t realize how unwelcoming we really are. We don’t understand how using particular church language makes outsiders feel like outsiders. We don’t see how we subtly reward things that keep us the same or put down things that would push us to grow.
What is the way out? A few immediate things come to mind. Pray for God’s help and direction. Get perspective of someone outside of your life or church that can show you your blind spots. Be honest and don’t try to explain it away. Above all 2 things are necessary for growth when it is wanted and unwanted at the same time. First, you have to trust that God has you where He wants you to be and is working for your benefit. Second, you have to have the courage to march right into the heart of the struggle and relentlessly wrestle with it.
Change and growth are messy. There is a reason that we resist them. My encouragement to you: wade into the messiness because you will find God there in a special way.