**Warning, this is an extra long post that's been brewing for a couple of weeks...
A couple of years ago we joined up with another church for our annual snow trip. We rented houses, borrowed vehicles and headed out for an adventure. An adventure it was. We had car problems, lots and lots of snow, an emergency car rental to get everyone home and then a blow-out on the way home on one of the cars. By the time we arrived back at the church at 10pm, we were tired. Snow trips are fun but I usually never get enough sleep, and this weekend wasn't any different. After everyone was finally picked up, I loaded up the leftover stuff and R-girl into the car and headed for home, thinking the adventure was behind us.
The road we took home wasn't the usual one for us. There are two roads that head our direction and as it turns out Road B was more direct than Road A, the usual route home. Road B is a little more secluded and tends to be less traveled by cars. As we drove towards home, R-girl and I were reviewing the weekend, commiserating about our general lack of sleep and laughing about things that had happened. We rounded a corner and that's when we saw the deer. He was a proud fellow with a good set of horns on his head and he was enjoying his late night snack by the side of the road. Now, being the semi-country girl that I am, I know that deer will do one of two things when headlights come at them. Run across the road in front of the car or stand still. Not knowing what this proud deer was going to do, I did what comes naturally to a person in this situation. I hit the brakes.
The brakes on this rental vehicle worked really well. We came to an immediate stop. The apples in the Costco pack on the back seat did not. Within seconds R-girl and I were being pelted by apples from inside our own vehicle! The combination of sleep deprivation, adrenaline from a quick stop and being pelted with apples had us in giggles. The proud deer looked at us for a second and resumed munching his snack. Amidst our giggling, R-girl and I managed to round up the apples and returning them to their pack and their place on the back seat.
As we headed on home, we were on alert now. As we drove away from proud deer we kept watching the side of the road to make sure there weren't any friends nearby. About a half mile down the road, I let my guard down a little and was in the midst of yawning very widely when I saw it. Proud deer's girlfriend. Again I hit the brakes and again the apples went flying! This time R-girl, amidst the laughter, was grumbling "dumb apples, dumb deer". What are the chances of the same thing happening two times in one night?
I managed to drop R-girl off safe and sound a few minutes later and made it home without any more deer spotting that night. The memory, though, has stayed with us. Yesterday, R-girl and I were reminiscing about the dumb deer and dumb apples and the thought hit me; dumb me. In my haste to get home, I had placed the pack of apples on top of a box on the back seat of the rental car. I remember thinking "I should move that to the seat" but got distracted and never did. And then, once we had the first apple flying encounter, instead of putting them on the floor or on the seat next to the box, I put the box of apples back in the same, exact place. You know what? I did the same thing after the second pelting. The apples went right back on top of that box.
So many times in my life, I do the same thing over and over again, expecting different results only to never see any change. As the phrase goes "When you do what you always do, you get what you always get." Yep. Pretty clear. Put the apples on the box, when you slam on the brakes, you will be pelted. Didn't learn it the first time? How about the second? Want to go for a third?
Change is a hard word for humans...it's even harder in a church setting. We do the things we do because we've always done them that way. They've worked before, they should work now. Mention the "c" word, and be ready for the firing range. Change is threatening, scary and seems to indicate that there is something desperately wrong with the person, the group of people, the institution. And so, we keep putting the apples back on the box, only to have them fly off and whack us in the head every once in a while.
Over the weekend I heard from many different speakers and God seemed to be saying the same thing through each of them...it's time for a change. In order for the Church universal to survive, we need to be changing. Not for the sake of change but because times are changing, people are changing. I loved how one speaker said it, Jesus will always be timeless but many of the things in our churches are not timeless. Some of those things need to be eliminated in order for the Church to survive, for the message of Jesus to be heard, for the peace of God to be shown.
Coming home and sharing that message with a handful of people, the reality of the threatening aspect of change hit home. Some reacted with a passion, immediately jumping to protect that which they cherished (and I hadn't even brought up...hmmmmmm...), some nodded their head in agreement and put the apples back on the box they had been resting on before, one passionately agreed and said "preach it, sister!". I know that God is working, I know that God is speaking to my heart for a reason and I'm listening. Praying for the strength to do and say what God is wanting me to say and do, that I will be able to listen, respectfully, to those who disagree and that God will speak louder than our fears. I'm watching for deer and flying apples.