Embrace Change

Life is too short to waste it worrying about change. Does change scare you? It scares most people. In the Retooled and Refueled Seminar, I speak about how much of my life I’ve spent trying to avoid change. I know psychologists have plenty of theories on the matter, but for me, I dislike change because I don’t know what will come next. And my fertile imagination has a way of dreaming up the worst possible outcome and multiplying it to the tenth power.

A little strategy that has helped me to cope with — and actually anticipate — change involves renaming it. Marketing people have long understood the importance of words. For instance, we no longer have “used cars.” Now they are “pre-owned automobiles.” And instead of TV reruns, my summertime shows are now called “encore presentations.” It’s the same with change.

Maybe a different name would also bring a new vantage point. So, instead of calling something a change, we could call it what it actually is: A life passage. This morning as I begin writing this, I am preparing for a life passage — I think. At 11:30, I’m due to meet with Kevin for lunch. Our daughter Emilee and her boyfriend Kevin have been dating for some time now. Bonnie and I have expected what I believe is going to happen today. Kevin came to my office the other day and asked for this lunch meeting. Immediately, I gulped emotionally and said, “Sure. When and where?”

Frankly, I didn’t care when and where — I was mostly preparing myself for the “what” of the meeting. You see, I think Kevin is going to ask me for permission to marry Emilee.

Now there are several ways I can deal with this. I can become possessive and resist the entire notion. This would be a certain way to insure Emilee’s eternal love for her dad. Yeah, right! Or I could wax emotional and relive the early years when we called Emilee “Porcupine” (back then, her now long, beautiful hair, stuck straight out like a porcupine). Or maybe I could approach this with all the joy and optimism it deserves and realize that this is simply another life passage.

The reason I prefer this phrase instead of the word “change” is because it denotes the possibility of a new and beautiful vista — something I’ve never seen or experienced before. This is the optimism with which I believe God wants his children to approach life.

Why does the announcement of a new office manager scare you? Probably because you’re worried she’ll be worse than the last one. Why are you uncomfortable with the thought of having to move? Maybe because you assume that you’ll lose old friends — and never replace them with new ones. Why would a parent be a bit apprehensive about a daughter getting married? Assuming the beau is as cool and godly as Kevin, only because things in the future won’t be like they were in the past.

This is where “what if?” thinking begins to shine. What if that new office manager sees your talents in a light her predecessor never did — and promotes you? What if your move leads to a new circle of friends whose depth and relational skills exceed anything you’ve ever before experienced? And won’t those trips back for long weekends with your old friends be neat? And what if Kevin becomes wealthy and decides to buy Bonnie and me a home in Palm Beach? Well, that may be a little over the top, but you get my drift. There have been so many times after fighting and clawing to stave off a change — which is unavoidable anyway — I was stunned at how much better things became.

In my experience, attitudes tend to become self-fulfilling prophesies. I still remember the old story of a man who was sitting in front of a general store. An out-of-towner pulled his car up, stopped, and said, “I’m thinking of moving here. What sort of people live in this town?”

Without stopping his whittling, the first man simply inquired, “Tell me about the people where you come from.” The traveler grumbled, “Oh, they were the worst! I never found a single person in that town who liked me.”

“Those are exactly the kind of folks who live here,” came the native’s reply. “I’d recommend that you look somewhere else to homestead.”

A short while later, another weary traveler pulled into town. He, too, saw the man in front of the store and asked the same question about the people of the town. Again, the local inquired about the traveler’s previous relationships in his last hometown.

“Man, they were the best! Everyone in town was kind and ready to be a friend,” he bragged, “I hated to leave.” Came the reply, “Friend, you’re going to love it here too; let me introduce you around as soon as you’re settled.”

I wonder what would happen if “what if ” thinking replaced the fear of change. Do you suppose God would reward our faith and optimism with more peace, less stress and greater eventual joy? Jesus said it himself, “As a man thinks — so is he.”

p.s. I’m back from lunch. It looks like we’re going to get a new son out of the deal. I can’t wait!

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