“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I change.”
When things in my life are unmoored and emotional vertigo sets in, I like to watch mellow, low-stakes TV: things like The Great British Baking Show and predictable romantic comedies from the 90s. Shows that have essentially no conflict, outside of daily challenges, help me find my center and give me something simple that I can count on.
One of my great frustrations is when a favorite show decides it’s time for a plot twist. I can almost imagine the room of writers chatting together and saying, “Things are getting stale; let’s switch things up before we lose our audience.” Suddenly the characters I’ve come to rely on begin to act completely out of character, places I love burn down, or relationships I cherish fall apart. “NO!” I scream at them from my bed (sometimes popcorn-throwing is involved).
I think about this often with regards to congregational life. As a minister, it’s easy to believe that what we we do is getting stale. It’s easy to get bored with our own consistency, simplicity, and predictability. We get bored with what we’re creating, even if it’s exactly what our people need. We begin to hold meetings about how we can “switch things up,” as though we’re yelling plot twist! just as someone else’s life might be dealing them an unwelcome plot twist. Often, what people need from us is a low-conflict, gentle place to land. They need The Great British Baking Show, with its British humour and scenes of baby lambs, not Game of Thrones.
I don’t think we should switch things up just to switch things up. I say this with humility, as someone who loves innovation and starting new things: right when you’re getting bored, everyone else is beginning to understand what you’re trying to do.
Change must come, and resisting necessary changes is detrimental—but we (make that I) need to remember that changes can be powerful even when they’re subtle. When we can gently hold things steady, the changes come instead from within; that’s where the real growth happens.
Spirit of life and love, may we find a deep and abiding trust in our communities. May we hold what is possible, and resist the tides of apathy and fear. May we be held so that each of us can find the ground. May we be the ground for those in the swirl. And may we never forget our power to heal through simple presence and love.