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A Note on Growing and Changing

November 21, 2017

I found this rather helpful and I thought you might enjoy it too. It is an endnote from Rob Bells’ recent book “What is the Bible”.

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A question I often get asked: What do I do if I’m growing and changing and my spiritual perspectives are expanding but my family and friends aren’t seeing what I’m seeing?

You can’t take people where they don’t want to go. The thing that you are so happy to be freed from still works for some people. They like it. It feels safe. It provides meaning and security. So when you challenge it and quote whoever you’ve been reading lately and ask the questions that opened new doors for you, they do not find this energizing.

Groups have a center of gravity. Families, friends, churches, offices, and schools all have a dominant consciousness, a center of gravity, a party line. It’s the often unspoken agreement that keeps things running smoothly based on what to believe, how to behave, what’s acceptable, and what isn’t. So when you charge in all excited about whatever it is you’ve learned, you are a disruption. And systems don’t take kindly to disruptions, often expending extraordinary energy to quell the disruption, pushing it to the edges, discrediting it. This is why some churches ban books, this is why certain topics are off-limits at family gatherings, and this is often why people use words like heretic.

Because of this, some voices that you once listened to will no longer be helpful. In fact, some voices that once helped you, if you continue to listen to them, will hinder your growth. It may even feel like a step backward—because it is.

This is normal. Painful, but normal. If you continue to listen to them as you get increasingly frustrated and angry, it is not their fault—it is yours. They are continuing to do and be who they have always been; it is you who has changed. It is your responsibility to stop listening to voices that hinder your ongoing growth and maturity.

You may need to create boundaries with certain people. For some people, it will appear as though you are going off the deep end, and they may see it as their sacred task to rescue you. No matter how earnest they are, their constant desire to engage you may not be very life-giving, and you may have to kindly but firmly say to them, We are not going to have this conversation again.

Also, you may be kind and gracious and generous, and you still may lose friends. You may be labeled something crazy and untrue. You may find that certain people avoid you. This can be disorienting, to say the least. In those moments, when you are feeling the cold, stiff breeze of loneliness, ask yourself this question: Would I rather go back?

Would you rather be alive and free and open and thrilled with all that is happening in your heart, or would you rather go back to who and how you were before? I didn’t think so. Remember that.

It is very difficult to find words for experiences. You may be exploding with new insights and hope and life, but if your friends haven’t experienced something similar, you going on and on and on about it may not be helping them see what you’ve seen. In fact, it may be causing harm. Be patient. Don’t force your experiences on others. The moving of spirit is a great mystery, and how or why or when certain people wake up is beyond us. Let people have their own experiences.

Bitterness is not your friend. It’s easy to become cynical, focusing your energies on them and endlessly wondering why they aren’t more evolved and why they are still stuck back there, repeating the same slogans and going through the same motions. If you are filled with pride over how free and intelligent and enlightened you are in comparison to their backward, antiquated ways, your new knowledge has simply made you arrogant. Watch your heart carefully, because if you aren’t more compassionate and more kind and more understanding, then you haven’t grown at all.

Celebrate. Think back over the last six months, over the last year, over the last five years. You aren’t the person you were. You’ve grown, evolved, opened up, been set free. Celebrate that. Not because you’re so great, but because you’re grateful. If all of the new things you’ve experienced don’t first and foremost make you grateful, then what have you gained?

For Jesus the point is fruit. You’ll know people by their fruit, by their life, by how they actually live in the world. Lots of people get excited about new ideas, and then they shove these new understandings in other people’s faces and become the very thing they despise. (If you have bought more than five copies of Love Wins for the same person and they still haven’t read it, I’m talking about you. Ha-ha.) If a new idea or understanding or interpretation doesn’t help transform you into the kind of person Jesus is calling us all to be, then it isn’t worth much. Are you more forgiving than you were? Less judgmental? More present? More courageous? Less worried and anxious, more free and loving?

That’s what’s interesting, you being transformed.

Remember that you are not alone. Never, ever forget this. Especially if you’ve begun to despair that you’re the only one who sees it like this. You’re not alone.

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