Life is a journey - this is mine.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Change: Getting on with it.

I've posted about change several times, and have been thinking about it again lately, perhaps from little different perspective. Death. Several people I know have had to deal with death of loved one in the past few weeks, so the subject has been higher in my consciousness than normal, and has caused me to evaluate my own experiences. My dad died from cancer just over 15 years ago. I still think of him often, almost daily-but the memories are real. Not sad, just real.

Most of us lose someone very close to us in our lifetime. Conventional wisdom says we go through a period of grief, then we move on. We all grieve differently, but the process is basically the same. The 'seven stages of grief' are well-documented. We experience shock and denial, pain and guilt, anger, then depression. We start to turn back, we rebuild, and then we accept what's happened and our life continues.

The grief process is the ultimate study of change. Change in the most extreme form most of us will ever experience. Reality is not a constant, in fact the only constant about the world we live in is it is constantly changing. Death of loved one, or more precisely, someone close to us changes our reality. Forever. They're never coming back to us in this life, and we have to learn how to live in this new reality.

The grief process, then, is more correctly titled the change process. I believe that every change in our lives that we have to process follows this same pattern. The degree of which we experience the emotions will vary depending on many factors in our psyche, and the nature of the change itself.

There are many sources of change, but only 2 types: internal and external. Internal change is the change we desire to make. Like to change a bad habit. This is transformational change, you must let something die in order for this change to occur, thus initiating the change process from within. You make this choice. External change is the change that happens to us from outside. Like the death of loved one, an unexpected job loss, a divorce, and so on. This is change out of our control, but still initiates the change process. Both types change reality.

What's really happening in this process? Behind the scenes of our denial, anger, sadness and acceptance, our psyche recreates our view of the world. Our perceptions are altered. Our core values, beliefs, attitudes, and expectations are reprogrammed to adjust to this new reality. The new facts are used as input, and when the compiler completes, we have our shiny new paradigm through which we operate in the world.

Romans 12:2 "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." The context here is changing to be more like Christ, but the process is the same. 'Renewing of your mind' is rewriting that roadmap within which we guide ourselves (credit to M. Scott Peck in 'The Road Less Travelled' for that metaphor). Again Paul writes in Ephesians 4:22-23 "You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds." Paul's metaphor is 'put off your old self' - or toss out that old map. Also, James 1:2-3 says "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance." Change is hard, but purposeful. There are many more biblical examples, but I hope my point is clear with these.

So. Death makes change, reality is in a constant stage of change (irony that I used constant to describe change, eh?). We have to change to match reality, the change process is what gets us there. When someone close to us dies, we don't get 'over' it, we get 'on' with it.

1 comment:

Bruce Milne said...

Thanks for the post Steve, and the help!

My question is though, can you articulate what changed with the world with the death of your father? Are there things that you have recognized specifically?

One could say that the death (and ressurection) of Christ means we are able to be forgiven, if we realize and learn to trust. The world was different, for us all, and we need to open our hearts, learn and choose to change.

Or is that too mechanical: it's all more subtle than that.