Pastor’s Blog: Change Is Difficult!

Pastor’s Blog: Change Is Difficult

Change is difficult! If you have ever tried to break a bad habit or to get out of a relationship that was bad for you, you know this is true. Now one caveat. Change is always difficult, and you need to know why change is necessary before you begin to try to make a change.

Sixty-six years ago, smoking cigarettes was normal. My father smoked heavily. He alternated between unfiltered Lucky Strikes and filtered Kents. He wore two-pocket dress shirts and kept a pack in each. Our mother did not smoke, having tried it briefly when she was on an army hospital ship during World War II. Mom used to say that she knew already as a young nurse that smoking was bad for your health. My older brother and my older sisters, the twins, followed after Dad’s modeling and began to smoke. As a fourteen year old high school freshman, I started smoking occasionally and, by eighteen, I was an addict. I smoked heavily, with a couple of periods of non-smoking, for the next twelve years. I quit cold turkey just after my thirtieth birthday. It was hell, but I did it out of love. Thirty-six years later, I despise the smell and rue the day I had my first cigarette. Change was difficult!

I dated a young woman for about five years. We dated briefly when I was eighteen and then from my twentieth birthday until my twenty-fourth. We began to have terrible fights once I began to answer God’s call to the holy ministry. She was furious with me, and I was disappointed in her. Today, we both know that our relationship did not have a good foundation. She had her gods. I wanted to be faithful to the one true God. I learned you can love someone, and yet that relationship can be neither godly nor good. Change was difficult! She ended the relationship when I went back to the seminary. I am grateful.

Fred, one of our lay leaders, often talks about the 30,000 foot view. By that, he means the overview, the big picture. Sometimes we are so close to the details, and that’s true of relationships, that we can’t see things unemotionally and, yes, with critical thinking. In the midst of smoking, I couldn’t admit how much of an addict I was. In the midst of that long-term relationship, I couldn’t admit how bad it was for both of us. A good pastor or a good counselor can often bring the needed insight that we don’t have when we are caught up in an unhealthy situation. Often, the truth ticks us off, before it sets us free.

Now the dynamics of change are universal, quite apart from belief systems or relationships. In other words, the same dynamics of change will exist even apart from culture. Edwin Friedman, a rabbi and psychiatrist, wrote extensively about that as he explored family systems in synagogues and churches. Change is difficult, and it requires strong, non-anxious leaders, who will press on until there is a new normal on the other side of change.  Of course, as Friedman wrote, because humans are homeostasis seeking creatures, we prefer what we know even when it is bad for us. That’s how I kept smoking for another nine years after my father died of lung cancer. That’s how I held on to a relationship long past the time that I knew my girlfriend did not want God or the Church to be part of her life.

The Lord Jesus tells us what evil looks like and what it does. It steals, kills, and destroys (John 10:10). In the same verse, He tells us that He came to bring eternal life. We can evaluate relationships and ideas on this basis. Those who steal, kill, and destroy are not godly or good. By observing their behavior, we can see that Antifa, despite its Orwellian name, is not anti-fascist. It looks and acts like the Nazi and Italian fascists. It has more in common with the Bolshevik or French revolutions than the American.

Black lives, like all lives, matter to the God who made every human in His image. All lives, born and unborn, matter to the God who sent His Son to suffer and die for our sins that all might have eternal life. While Antifa is anarchist (“burn it all down”), the “Black Lives Matter” movement is neo-Marxist. Its fundamental beliefs are, as with all Marxist movements, in utter conflict with the Christian faith. Just because there are people claiming to be Christian Marxists (or liberation theologians), that does not make them Christians. One ideology will survive, and you can be sure the Marxist identity will be stronger than the Christian. The Kingdom (reign) of God will not come by our efforts.

Change is difficult! We had to fight a war with England to insure our independence as a nation. We had to fight a war with each other to guarantee the promises of our constitution were true for everyone. No more slavery, because all people are created equal by God and endowed with certain inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We had to fight two world wars, because the freedom of all people was at stake. Sadly, during World War II, we failed Jews, who tried to immigrate to this nation from Germany, and we failed Japanese Americans by putting them in internment camps. Sadly, our history includes the murder of American Indians, and our failure to guarantee the freedom of eastern Europeans after World War II. We had modest success in Korea in maintaining freedom for some. We failed miserably in Southeast Asia in the 1960s and 1970s largely because of the kind of angry mobs we see in our streets today. Our nation-building attempts in the Mideast (brought to us by men like John Bolton) were also disastrous. Measured response to evil worked when cooler heads prevailed.

Change is difficult, and we must always ask to what ends? There are those in both political parties who really don’t want change, because they are in the pockets of large multinational corporations, who benefit from American stability but are less than loyal to the United States. We have seen for more than three years that the so-called elite in government, academia, media, entertainment, and sports are terrified of change, because it would mean a loss of power and influence. Our President is brash, often undisciplined in his response to critics, but he is a change agent. That is why he is despised by the so-called elite. He looks at failed cities as fiefdoms and asks why they can’t be better. He looks at the poor and asks why they can’t have jobs. He looks at the so-called outsiders, whom the elites label with derisive terms, and sees people who just want to be left alone with their God-given rights.

Change is difficult! There is a culture war going on in the United States. Will we remain one nation under God with liberty and justice for all regardless of skin pigmentation, sex, national origin, creed, or socioeconomic status? That is, of course, an ideal into which we continue to fight and grow. Or, will the so-called elites continue to pad their own pockets and maintain their own power while they sell everyone else downstream and destroy this nation? Or, will the neo-Marxists and anarchists utterly destroy the American experiment, and, as history shows, leave us with something far worse?

At the time of the American bicentennial in 1976, one very wise scholar reminded us that the average age of empires throughout history was 200 years. At 244 years of declared independence, there really is some question as to whether we will continue as one nation under God with liberty and justice for ALL. Change is difficult. Not all change is good. Those who live to steal, kill, and destroy are evil. Ultimately, God will bring an end to this old creation. He who watches over us laughs derisively at our plans.

St Matthew's Pastor Sam Zumwalt

szumwalt

The Rev. Dr. Samuel Zumwalt has worked in churches for 44 years and in May 2020 celebrated the 39th anniversary of his ordination to the holy ministry. He is a member of the Society of the Holy Trinity (www.societyholytrinity.org). In 2004, Pr. Zumwalt moved with his family to Wilmington from Texas, where he served for 23 years as pastor of small, midsize, and large congregations.