We have been trying to solidify our perspective on change for a long time. Since the pre-socratic philosophers, a great deal of thinking has been done on change, permanence, whether all is in a state of flux or ultimately immutable. One of my favourite writings, the book of Ecclesiastes offers another somewhat symbiotic take – that perhaps all things change, but the change itself is subject to an endless repetitive cycle.

Modern writers have also wrestled with this. ‘All Things Must Change’ is the title of songs composed by both Bush and Runrig. Both songs lean into the inevitability of change, and our relative frailty in the face of it. But it need not be a bad thing. We all likely exist on some sort of continuum, in terms of how readily we embrace change. So often it is unwelcome, painful, an interruption – particularly to our private aspirations. As Calum & Rory Macdonald wrote in the above mentioned song: We stood like gods before our maps and plans

Of course we have to plan, chart a course, and have something to aim for. But personally, I’ve often found the really valuable stuff in my life has come through unexpected change. Spiritual growth, altruism, maturity, resilience, wisdom and discernment, deconstruction and reconstruction of beliefs. I value even the small measure of these I possess, because they were costly, and usually came through change.

Each of them would be an essay in itself so I’ll focus on just one and how it came about. One change I would never have signed up for was the pandemic. As a newly minted minister of 5 months, it was gruelling. I questioned my calling, God, and so many other things in that era of my life. But strangely, it changed me for the better. I went into it thinking technology was a useful tool for ministry and nothing more. I was very skeptical of technology being celebrated too much as a tool for worship. If Im honest I thought it needed reigning back a bit. But as I was forced to use it as a sole means of ministry, I began to change. I began to see more possibilities for genuine missional encounters, across different platforms. I began to see that often people were more honest and vulnerable online, allowing more space for spiritual exploration. In short, given the fruit it produced, it became an essential part of how I minister to folks, and hold space for them.

Of course it would have been easier to hold on to my preconceptions and judgements. I know from past experience that is comfortable, and change certainly is not. Neuroscience has developed a way of showing us that changing our deeply held beliefs simulates a response similar to physical pain. That makes so much sense of what I see, how viscerally people can react in the face of possible change.

But change and pain are both inevitable. We are not gods before our maps and plans. They are but a thin sheet, with our best finite guesses scribbled on. But now I find this idea is actually comforting. This is one area of my life that continues to make sense of faith for me. In walking with God, before His face, change and pain can both be kneaded into something quite precious. Love, maturity and growth are all distilled and made better through change. I’m relieved to not be in charge of the actual map and timeline, and am carried along by one who is eternal and unchangeable.

By Rev David Nicolson