Change: Re-formation

There is always change.  My recent trip to the European mainland to Wittenberg Germany on the anniversary of the Reformation was quite remarkable and moving.  Perhaps this trip combined with other recent events such as my mother passing away, had me thinking about the power of change and resilience which is the ability to bounce back and keeping moving onward in the midst of challenge.

One of the many things I admire about the Reformer Martin Luther was his resilience.  Early in the Reformation he didn't have much to hang his hat on for the sake of his personal security.  Indeed, his own core beliefs were changing so fast that I suspect one reason he was such a prolific writer was it helped him to make sense of them and keep them centered on the truth of Scripture.  He had powerful enemies in the Pope and other leaders of the Roman Catholic church whose main approach to dealing with his challenge being to call for his life.  Marriage brought a great many other changes to Luther and when his daughter died it broke his heart.  But he remained unwavering through his life to what was right and good and to living.

There is always change.  The ancient pre-Socratic philosophy Heraclitus in discussing the relationship of permanence (which we all crave) and change suggested we "cannot step in the same river twice".  Time flows.  The world changes.  We change.  

As we grow older there is much change we cannot control but there is also much that we can influence.  For example as our bodies grow older what that means can be heavily influenced by choices in diet and exercise.  Our minds as well.  We can sit and just let how we approach life be largely out of years of habit.  Or we can from time to time engage why we are doing what we are doing and what we hold dear and reassess our values, beliefs, and goals to see if perhaps they are in need of a re-formation.

Some of us resist changing our beliefs because it sounds too much like the radical liberal clarion call that traditional values are enslaving and change that abandons the past is necessarily liberating and progress.  But as Luther showed us, sometimes reaching back to the foundation can help us get our life (and sometimes our society) back on a better course.

There are some changes that change us.  They come unexpectedly. We fall in love.  We loose a loved one.  We are diagnosed with an illness.  We are attacked by an enemy.  Our situation alters in a substantial way.  

Such change, when associated with loss or threat, can illicit some powerful negative emotions.  It is telling that of the four major emotions (mad, sad, scared, glad) three of them are negative.  Change can make us fearful, sad and depressed, and even angry.  Emotions can be powerful motivators in our lives for actions which bring on further change, not all of them good.  I believe it wise when we become conscious of a major change in our lives that find us with these powerful emotions, that such is a time at the beginning of our response to not just put our feelings into it, but to think about our feelings, to think about our new situation, and to think about where we want the situation to go.

I find in these situations reaching back to my core - to my foundational beliefs - helps me to sustain what is important and vital in the midst of changes. 

It can be easy to drift from our core beliefs and identity as strange as that might sound.  By Ortega Gassett tells us, "I am myself and my circumstances."  Circumstances go a long way in making up the stuff of our lives and when we have lived in a set of circumstances long enough, perhaps some aspects of who we are have not been utilized or were set aside for a time and now out of habit they have grown rather dusty.  

I will confess that in Wittenberg I began to think of how my Lutheran core beliefs had grown just a bit dusty in my almost 7 years as a military chaplain.  While it is a good thing that I've added many new tools to my "toolbox" to care for folks and I work in a wonderful diverse environment, it was good to be reminded of the hope that is found at the heart of the Reformation and that this hope is central to my life:  Salvation by faith alone, as declared in Scripture alone, received as a free gift of grace alone, because of what Christ alone has done in his death and resurrection.  I had began to think of myself as an "Air Force Chaplain" which I am and hopefully will remain for I love this job.  But I am reminded that I am also a Lutheran pastor and my job is not just a job - it is a calling.  When you are not all that special and you are surrounded by some very talented and dedicated folks it is easy to forget that one is called to a special task, not because of being better or superior.  But God gives us all a vocation because He creates us all with unique gifts and talents and calls us to place those in service to one another and just to ourselves.  

These past few weeks have been time of reflection, re-formation.  Touching my roots.  Thinking of my present.  Preparing for my future.  Taking stock.  Being thankful for what remains and aware that all things change and some of them should be relished while they are present.