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Does Change Lead to Change?

Embarking Blog

...on the journey towards restoration of all things

Does Change Lead to Change?

Tom Elenbaas

The great spiritual monastic Thomas Merton wrote the following:

For the 'old man,' everything is old; he has seen everything or thinks he has. He has lost hope in anything new. What pleases him is the 'old' he clings to, fearing to lose it, but he is certainly not happy with it. And so he keeps himself 'old' and cannot change: he is not open to any newness. His life is stagnant and futile. And yet there may be much movement - but change that leads to no change. [Journals, March 18, 1959]

How often aren't our lives characterized by that phrase. Full of movement, full of busyness, full of activity, but with no change. How easy it is to veil growth and change within a flurry of activity - again to quote Shakespeare - a life "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." I've been thinking a lot about this personally because my life is busy. I'm always working hard to move the ball down the court or take the next hill (or whatever metaphor you want to use), and yet often fail to find the place of deep renewal and change. I don't necessarily mean, even, the renewal that comes from rest and deep reflection, but the renewal that comes through the death of the "old man" and the birth of the "new man." It is that deep spiritual renewal that transforms us in the power of the spirit.

One of Satan's great tools is the constant busyness and activity - even good activity - that leads us to a life without any real soul change and formation. Merton says this, "plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose," which translated from French means something like, "The more things change, the more they stay the same." How often we mistake activity for the illusion of change it often is. I love what he says a little later in this same passage:

The new man lives in a world that is always being created, and renewed. He lives in this realm of renewal and creation. He lives in life. [Ibid]

He goes on to talk about the hope that resides in the heart and soul of the person who is truly living "newly" and the realm of renewal and creation, and that the "old man" loses hope because not real, deep change seems to take place. Merton himself, was finding hopelessness in his own life, and at the communion table through the body and blood of Jesus rediscovered that hope. 

That is one reason that we come to worship weekly in the Christian church. We come to hear the generative Word. We come to be reminded that the gospel is true, and only the power of Jesus can truly change us. We come to find hope in the death and resurrection of this Jesus in whom is the only true option we have for change. We come to confess our inabilities, seek forgiveness, and receive strength to go another week in the battle for our humanity. We can continue in a flurry of activity to pursue change c'est la même chose, or we can find the deeper ongoing true change that comes from a long obedience in the same direction of submission to the only One who can truly change us. 


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