Paper Tigers - Dealing with Change
On the topic of dealing with change, Emelia Earhart once remarked that “the most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears (we face) are paper tigers…”
There are not many people who can honestly say they love change and constantly seek it out. Sure, there are a few people who love the excitement and adventure that change brings into their lives, but most of us find change uncomfortable and in fact, quite scary. In a sense, we fear change and it can loom large before us, even as scary as a giant Tiger hiding in the bush waiting to pounce on us.
CHANGE IMPACTS US ALL
Most people assume that change is harder for the older generation to come to terms with and if asked, many young people would suggest that this is true. If you had interviewed me in my early twenties, I definitely would have said that my parents and grandparents seem trapped in their old ways, habits and routines.
However, if young people are completely honest then they would also admit to struggling with change. Just ask any teenager who has recently started a new school grade, committed to playing a new sport, or joined a new extra mural. They may put on a brave face, but they would confess that these changes all take time getting used to. Change impacts all of us!
THE STAGES OF CHANGE
As a family we have just embarked upon a season of massive change. In the last two months, we have uprooted almost every aspect of our previous lives and have faced numerous ‘paper tigers’. We have moved provinces, cities, homes, schools, work and even churches.
In doing so, we have left behind an established base of family, friends and community and are slowly finding our feet in a whole new world. Although there have already been many moments of adventure and excitement in our new home, the whole process has been extremely unsettling and quite tough.
I came across an interesting take on change by Howard Hendricks, who suggests that there are three stages that people go through when confronted with any change:
1. Resistance to change
2. Tolerant of change
3. Embrace the change
I am thankful that our family has got to stage 3 in a relatively short space of time, but there are moments when the grandeur of the move and newness of the change catches us by surprise. When all that is familiar and comfortable is not there anymore, one needs to look somewhere else for the stability and security we seek. It is in moments like this that one realises that God is all that you need.
THE GOD OF CHANGE
God remains constant through all the change and seasons of our lives. As the writer of Hebrews notes, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
Elsewhere in the Bible we find other words of reassurance and to be honest, these scriptural gems have kept us going through this season of change. A gigantic move from a place of comfort is only possible if our security is not based on material and earthly things. We found the words of James a great source of strength in our season of change:
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17).
If you are facing a period of transition or change in your life, then I can offer you a little advice. These are not ‘silver bullets’ to help you handle every aspect of change, but just a few personal observations to help you find some balance and security in this transient season.
1. Always remember that God is your sure foundation.
God is still the same person – no matter where you find yourself. God has not moved anywhere and God will still be our friend, comforter, leader, healer, companion and guide.
2. Lean on the support of family and genuine friendships in this time.
These people may not be physically with you, but the knowledge that they are ‘there’ for you, covering you in prayer and offering support is invaluable.
3. Keep reflecting on what this season of change is teaching you.
As Leo Buscaglia said, “Change is the end result of all true learning.” The most valuable lesson I have come to experience so far is that God is way stronger than all of my ‘paper tigers’ put together.
4. Lastly, I have realised that change doesn’t need to paralyse us.
It can threaten our sense of security, but as long as my ‘centre’ is firmly found in the heart of Jesus, then I can face most situations. God’s grace is strong enough to uphold me at all times.
As we conclude these thoughts, I offer you an old prayer that has sustained many pilgrims in their times of trial and seasons of change – “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference “ (Reinhold Niebuhr).