Sunday, February 21, 2010

Mental illness of change

Boy I’ve met some grumpy people this week. Maybe it has to do with seven straight days of gray skies. Maybe it has to do with us hitting the mid-February moon phase. I’m not sure what it is, but people are struggling this week - losing their grip on their sense of humour.

The other thing that keeps popping up for me is this word Transformation. I hear it mostly in the church circles – in the liturgy that comes to us from the National church. From the lips of church leaders and gurus and consultants. Transformation is a-buzz.

Change is what happens to us whether we like it or not. But Transformation happens when we choose to engage in that change. Change is the steamroller of fate, of fickle gods playing out tragedies, of sun and moon cycles turning us over and over, of cells suffering decay before our illusions of what should be - can play out. Change is beyond our control - and because we can’t control it – we naturally fear it.

Transformation is also beyond our control. To engage in transformation is to enter into a stream of possibilities. I am but a single fish swimming merrily down the stream. But I have choices to make. Even when I’m caught in the rapids and tumble down over rocks of inevitability (getting older) I can choose to be swept downstream in the mainstream of that churning curling force of flow. Or, I can choose to escape into the eddies of quiet swirling bywater pools. Or, I can choose to leap and struggle and swim against the stream back up towards the source of the flow with all the gumption I can muster.

What makes me grumpy is when i get all earnest about all the trouble and change – or lack of change – or the fact that I’m stuck here in the gray days of mid-winter and there’s nothing i can do about it. I’ve lost touch with the change that is under way all around me - and i just don’t see it.

Beneath the snow, new life is already awakening – responding to the longer days of sunlight – even when that sun hides behind clouds – it’s energy is working away. As nature changes it teaches me that the Nature of this world we’re in is – to CHANGE.

We change whether we like it – growing bigger, stronger, smarter, wiser - or not – growing smaller, weaker, more forgetful and vulnerable. Yet, in the midst of change - we do have choices to make. Three choices. Will we accept the change, resist the change, or engage in the change?

My wife Carol was diagnosed with cancer over a decade ago. She’s the kind of fish that turns over every rock in the stream looking for answers to the problem that’s before her. In her research of dis-ease and healing, she discovered a study that gave us insight into surviving the threat of cancer.

Statistics showed that people who chose to helplessly put themselves into the hands of the experts, who became victims of the diagnoses, who said “what’s the use – what can I do?” found that they were quickly swept downstream to the end of it all.

People who chose to deny the change that’s happened within them, however, did much better. Denial is the second best strategy for survival. These fish go on living like they’ve always lived. They find their way into the eddies and backwaters of living like nothing’s changed. They can last there for a long time before the current finds them and takes them away.

The best strategy, according to this study, to survive the diagnoses of an early death – is to choose transformation. People who choose to engage in the change that’s happening within them – will surprise doctors, and the experts, and even themselves with miraculous recoveries.

A guy in our church was recently given a death sentence. “Prepare for the end” the doctors told him “there’s little we can do about the cancer in you”. Six months later, when he was supposed to be meeting his MAKER, the doctor can’t find the cancer. A miraculous transformation has occurred. Why? God knows why – but I have a theory.

What I watched was this man and his wife choose to engage in the nature of the change. While their lives hit the rapids - the threat of cancer of course churned up fears and questions all around them - they chose to swim upstream. They didn’t run, they didn’t’ hide. They followed doctors orders but they also engaged in a journey of healing and transformation.

I watched them engage in their lives on a deeper level. Right away they sought the prayers of their church family. On a regular basis they sought out the healing touch of Ministers working with the science of energy’s flow. They opened up their calendars and made room for things they’d been putting off for years. They opened their hearts to what Christ might do in them. They opened their imaginations to the wonders and surprising gifts of healing Christ offers those with the imaginations of little children.

They also chose to keep living their lives the way they’d always lived – investing maybe even a little deeper in the day to day chores and obligations of church and home – made sweeter by the threat of losing what they’d naturally fallen into the habit of taking for granted.

Don’t we all take our day to day lives for granted? Don’t we even grumble about the routine of taking out the garbage week in and week out – until we face the idea of not being around to even make the garbage?

Now, this couple is not entirely out of the woods yet. (Who is?) They have further tests to undergo and we’ll keep praying them through it, and celebrating their lives day by day, with the mystifying power of prayer.

To accept change as inevitable - is a form of mental illness.
To resist or deny change - is also a form of mental illness.

(I’ll have more to say about mental illness in the weeks to come. I’m investigating it from the inside out these days.)

But - to engage in change, to swim upstream - while it may seem crazy to those hiding in the eddies or being swept rapidly away - it is the path of Transformation.

As we enter into these days of Lent. As we focus our attention on the path of the LORD Jesus Christ towards the cross. We might ask - was Jesus swept downstream by the inevitable fate of all prophets and martyrs? Or, did Jesus choose to swim upstream into the midst of power-seekers, control-freaks, change-resisters and GOD-deniers?

Is HIS call today to be swept downstream in a culture that worships security bought with the price of war? Or, does he invite us to jump up and play out the power of courageous faith to transform our fears about the inevitability of death - into a renewing, re-creating, peacemaking possibility-pursuing body of Christ?

1 comment:

Mick said...

Well, Allan, I look forward to the unfolding of this theme. You have opened up many doors around the themes of change and transformation. (And they have many doors!!!) I also look forward to the theme of "mental illness" - you have such courage to take this on.

A current spiritual teacher, Eckhart Tolle, says outright that we live in an insane (read "mentally ill" world. For him this is characterized by a) denial that we are insane as a society, and b) mindless pursuit of material acquisition.

You raise interesting questions when you say that "denial is the second-best way to..."

More please. GREAT writing and reflection here!