Change Theory

“For I am the LORD, I do not change.” Malachi 2:6a (NKJV)

In 1947, Kurt Lewin developed a concept that he termed “Change Theory”.  This consisted of three steps: Unfreeze (getting ready to change), Change (a transitional step where you have decided that change is necessary; often complicated by coming to the precipice of the change decision and then becoming afraid), and Refreeze (establishing stability after the change has been made–likened to regaining your equilibrium). This theory has been adapted in many ways over the years as it has been applied to various scientific and social disciplines.

Most of us don’t like change. When we are faced with change in our lives, we pretty much grit our teeth and “hang on for dear life”. I was really no different in my younger years. I grew up in the same city, in the same house, until I went off to college.  I would have been happy to stay there, as I was socially reticent and not too sure about living in a dorm away from home with all kinds of girls I had never met.  My parents knew, however, something that I did not: I really needed to go away to college. I needed a little push out of the “nest.”

Real change began after graduating from college. I started a new job, got married, and moved halfway across the country. And it didn’t stop there. We proceeded to move a total of twenty-eight times in the next thirty-two years. We never managed to make small moves either. We usually moved from one coast to the other as time in the U.S. Navy and a series of job related moves for my husband, necessitated that I become really proficient at change. I can’t tell you how many people have told me over the years: “I could never do that.”

When I was much younger, I would have agreed with them.  Sometimes it is a blessing that God does not give us all the details of what He has planned for us. I am not sure I would have had the courage to contemplate, much less do, what my life has since required of me. The constant change inherent in all of those moves, turned me into a different person, and believe me, I needed it. I could easily have become rigid in my thinking, beliefs, and lifestyle had I stayed in one place with the same people all of these years. With each successful move and transition, I have learned what God has been trying to teach me: He always gives me everything that is necessary to complete what He has asked me to do and He never leaves me alone to accomplish anything without His help. I have found that all of those changes have actually been very good for me.

Most people don’t like unexpected change because they don’t like that sense of losing control over their lives. Not knowing where you are going, or how you are going to get there, requires a certain level of faith and trust, not only in God, but also in yourself and your ability to adapt–something that doesn’t always come easily.  And, to be honest, the process of change generally involves hard work. Change is always uncomfortable, at least to some degree. There are those who are never willing to move beyond their comfort zone and take the next step when God shows it to them.  Some can only see the risks involved in that change. They may not be willing, or able, to look beyond that risk to the reward.

So how do we handle it when God asks us to make a change in our lives? Do we quickly move towards obedience? Do we run away and hide because the thought of this change terrifies us? Do we procrastinate, hoping this change will magically happen by itself,  so we can side-step the effort required? Do we change, but bellyache and gripe all the way through it? Or do we look at change as an adventure?

I am reminded of that Steve Green song from a number of years ago named, “The Plan:”

“I don’t need to have the plan in hand, I don’t need to have the end in sight, All I need to do is follow you, wherever you lead and do what you ask me to.

Trusting you, Lord, with all my heart, following you all my days; whether I can or can’t understand, I’ll acknowledge you in all my ways.

I don’t need to have the plan in hand, I don’t need to have the end in sight, All I need to do is follow you, wherever you lead and do what you ask me to.

Though I am pressed on every side I am not in despair. My faith in you will carry me through though I may not see where You’re leading me.

I don’t need to have the plan in hand, I don’t need to have the end in sight, All I need to do is follow you, wherever you lead and do what you ask me to.

In order for us to fulfill the call God has placed on our lives, we must change. In fact, God expects us to change.  And for that we should be grateful.  I don’t know about anyone else, but I am glad I am not the same person I was thirty years ago. I am learning that my security and confidence comes from the fact God never changes, even when my life is in constant flux.  His Presence and His Word are my port in the storms of life. I can have confidence because His Word is always rock solid, His Grace is always sufficient, His Love will always carry me through, and His Holy Spirit will always guide me. I don’t have to face change on my own–ever! He is there every step of the way, and that gives me the “peace that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).

But, God gives me even more than that (as if that weren’t enough). He also sends others to come along side to help, support, encourage, strengthen, and to pick me up when I fall flat on my face.  I know my life was never meant to be a solitary journey. I need others to keep me from becoming self-absorbed, self-centered, and self-indulgent. I need others to help me develop those gifts of service God deems so valuable.

Of course, the need for me to embrace change will never end. I will never really “arrive” at any point in my life. Change is a constant in the universe, and it is a constant in my life, as well. I should, in fact, call the process of change what it really is: an opportunity for growth.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8 (NKJV)

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 (ESV)

Copyright © 2011 by Susan E. Johnson
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