Resisting Change – Br. David Vryhof

Br. David Vryhof

Jeremiah 7:23-28
Luke 11:14-23

If we were trying to come up with a theme for today’s lessons, I’d suggest the word “resistance.”

In the first reading, God reminds the Israelites of God’s generous offer: “I will be your God, and you shall be my people; and [you shall] walk only in the way that I command you, so that it may be well with you.”  But the Israelites very clearly don’t hold up their end of the bargain.  They do not listen or obey, but instead they walk “in their own counsels.”  Despite repeated pleas from the prophets, they continue to “stiffen their necks” and refuse to accept God’s guidance and discipline. Why?  Why do they return again and again to their old lives, refusing the new way of life God is offering them?

In the story from Luke, the theme again is resistance.  Jesus heals a man by casting out a mute demon.  The mute man speaks, and the crowd is amazed, but some challenge him by questioning the source of his power and by demanding further signs.  Why couldn’t they rejoice in the healing?  Instead of rejoicing and following him, they stiffen in their resistance and refuse to accept Jesus’ words and deeds.  Where does such resistance come from?  What were they resisting and why?

If we’re honest with ourselves, we can admit that we too, at times, find ourselves stiffening in resistance to something God is asking of us.

Perhaps we’re being prompted by the Spirit to forgive a person who has hurt us and to give them a second chance, but we choose instead to nurse our hurt feelings and stubbornly resist God’s invitation to forgiveness and reconciliation.

Or maybe God has been inviting us to change the way we are living.  It may be an invitation to take better care of ourselves or to get our anger under control or to give up some habit that is harmful to us or to others.  And yet we resist the invitation.  We continue to live as we have been living and discover resistance whenever we think about actually making these changes.  We carry on just as we always have.

Lent is a season that invites us to change, to repent, to turn around.  It invites us into a new and lifegiving way and challenges us to give up our sinful or unhealthy ways.  But it’s not easy to change.  Consider how difficult it is for people to carry out their new year’s resolutions.  It’s hard to follow through on a resolution, or to break a habit, or to form a new and healthier habit.

In their book Immunity to Change, authors Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey try to understand why it is so difficult for most of us to change.  One part of their study focused on patients with serious heart conditions that were life-threatening.  In every case, doctors had warned these patients that unless they changed the way they were eating and started to exercise, they could expect to die very soon.  But if they could make these changes they could live on.  Even when the stakes were life and death, the majority of the people couldn’t or wouldn’t change.

Kegan and Lahey suggest there are underlying assumptions or attitudes that cause us to resist change and they encourage us to explore the reasons why we resist change.  Willpower is not enough, they say, we have to go deeper to understand what it is in us that resists this change, even when we know the change will be good for us.  Then we have to deliberately challenge our false assumptions and act contrary to them, in order to give ourselves a chance to change.

Lent invites us to metanoia, to a changed life.  It invites us to drop old and unhelpful ways of being to embrace a new and lifegiving way of life.  As part of your “self-examination” in Lent you might want to look at a part of your life that you have wanted to change or tried to change, but without success.  Think deeply and carefully about what it is in you that causes you to resist this change, and address the false assumptions that emerge.  God waits to help and strengthen you.

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1 Comments

  1. Pedro on April 19, 2024 at 16:04

    Thank you very much, Brother David! Very interesting and helpful! All the best. May the peace of the Lord be always with you.

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