My kids have grown up, their bedrooms have not. So – my project – one room at a time – is to “adult” their old rooms. I’m not talking a major remodel, no walls are coming down. I’m simply removing some oddly placed shelves and moldings, buying queen sized beds and using more grown-up paint schemes.
As I worked in each room my dream of what could be dissolved into a mess of frustration and a strong urge to close the door and forget about the room altogether. Bits of wall came off with the molding and the shelves, leaving torn drywall. Pin holes from old study notes tacked to the walls had to be patched. Mysterious grime refused to be scrubbed off the walls. A bit of discolored wood flooring revealed rot below. Old paint didn’t match new paint. There were so many times I wished I’d never started this project! The old rooms were just fine, I should have left well enough alone.
What if I stopped? What if I closed the door and left the rooms in a mess? Or what if I’d never started, and visiting grown-ups just dealt with staying in kids’ rooms forever? The world wouldn’t end. No harm, no foul.
“Don’t you want to see what happens if you don’t give up?”
If you follow @_nightbirde you recognize her words. She has cancer, but she keeps singing and her voice is a blessing. She wants to see what happens if she doesn’t give up.
I’m sure you can figure out how to apply my painting project to your congregational change efforts. We want things to be easy and quick, that’s the American way. But most things aren’t. Some change is fast – but that’s usually catastrophic and quite unpleasant. Constructive change is slow – it’s building on what is there, growing up just a bit, reaching past frustration and plugging away until what is possible gradually becomes clear. Sometimes we discover the rot of old conflicts and have to dig down to work through them. More often we hit the same walls we always hit when we try something new: someone exercises their veto power the whole thing stops. The urge to give up and just continue in old rooms is strong. I understand that. We’re tired of pushing, tired of things never working out the way we’d hoped they would. Our past efforts have left us skeptical and cautious.
And, of course, Hope.
And…the power of resurrection.
We know that adaptive change means moving forward when we don’t know where we are going. Technical change involves finding a known solution, but adaptive is less certain, it takes trust. Following Jesus creates a similar feeling. I trust the one leading and I ask God to help me in my lack of trust. I can’t see the future, can’t even make a simple bedroom look the way I’d dreamed it would. Yet, Romans 8:22-28 reminds us that God is working through the mess – for good. God probably doesn’t care about my kids’ rooms, but God definitely cares about our congregations.
Where is God leading your congregation? Who does God want you to meet along the way? What does the future hold?
A while back I was out for drinks with a friend. When our Manhattans came she raised her glass and said: “To the future, which God holds.” Cheers and Amen. Don’t you wanna see what happens?