On Courage in the Face of Change

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Tomorrow morning Anna and I head off up north for a couple of weeks. We spend a few days with my wider family at a beach house in Taupo, then two days with Anna's sister at Maungatautari, and finally we are spending five days at a beach north of Auckland. As we pack for the trip I'm thinking about Zeal's first staff meeting of the year. For those unfamiliar, Zeal is the youth trust Anna and I have worked for the past nine years. With some close friends of ours we were part of the team that grew the agency from 2 staff to 25 and from one city to a nationwide trust. On Monday morning as we wake up late and brew a Chemex, Zeal Wellington will be having it's first staff meeting of the year... and we won't be there. For the first time in nine years we won't be setting the vision or sharing the stories and our little team of five will have grown to almost double that over the summer. I'm nervous for the new folks taking over (though they are both fantastic) and the reality that we are leaving one season and entering another is hitting home much more tangibly.
Change is hard. It's hard because change requires something to die. It's been my experience that death very rarely happens without pain. My generation has grown up with happiness as the central-pillar of our cult of consumerism. How many conversations evaluating the wisdom of a friend's decision end with that familiar line "as long as it makes her/him happy..."? We prize comfort so highly in our pursuit of this happiness yet comfort is rarely the thing that brings growth or significance to life. In fact, comfort is the thing which encourages us to stay exactly where we are even if it is killing us! How is it that hostages fall in love with their captors? How is it that the woman who is horrifically mistreated by her partner can continue to convince herself that things will be better if she sticks around? Because sometimes the comfort of the familiar is less scary than the pain of change, even if we know it's terrible for us.
Change is pain, but hurt comes in many forms. In the body physical pain sometimes tells us something is broken, but sometimes there is pain that indicates healing too. The pain we feel when a loved one departs isn't something to be avoided, but the very thing that alerts us to the need to make space to accommodate the monumental change that has happened around us. In the same way, discomfort isn't always the indicator that we shouldn't take the job offer, pursue that friendship, or get on the plane. C.S Lewis said "Pain is the megaphone God uses to rouse a deaf world." You may not be a religious person, but I think we can recognise that often pain is the catalyst to awaken us from our slumber, call us out of our apathy, and instil in us the naive courage to make the change we knew we needed to make all along.
Are you uncomfortable? So am I. Currently there sits a Zeal-sized hole in the middle of life which I'm yet to get a full picture on how to fill. The uncertain space before us is a opening for the cultivation of courage to walk in the dark where we can't yet see, to wade in the deep where our feet can't touch the bottom, and to sail out beyond the view of landfall. Take heart, because everything we leave behind creates space for what we're yet to discover. Our universe is in state of constant death and renewal, how could we expect our lives not to be the same?
Here's a couple of ideas for navigating change:
  • Ask yourself: Is there a change in or around you that you might need to grieve? If the answer is yes, it's time to make space for this to happen. There is no shortcut through grief and this can be as much about the loss of a job as it is about the loss of a loved one. Many indigenous cultures allow days or weeks for healthy grieving processes while we allow mere hours. The assistance of a counsellor or a trusted mentor can be great in asking the questions that help you to make peace with the end of one season and the start of another.
  • Ask yourself: Is my current comfort deterring me from the change I know is needed? Our identity becomes deeply entangled in what we do. Sometimes our work and relationships have brought with them a degree of security, status and reputation. When we've spent time building a castle it can be hard to step out not knowing if we will ever have it as good again. Perhaps it's time to imagine a new dream of what life could look like and to find some champions around you who can remind you daily that you're not crazy.