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If you were here at the end of August you might remember hearing this same scripture passage that we heard this morning, of Peter walking on water. Don’t worry – you aren’t going to hear the same sermon again. One of the wonderful things about scripture is that it can be interpreted in different ways when we apply a different lens or look at it from a different perspective. So today we will look at the story through the lens of our Reshaped series.
Over the last few weeks, as we have been thinking about change in our personal lives, in the church and in our world, we’ve considered that as human beings, we are actually made for change. We’ve reflected on the way that lasting change comes when it happens from the inside out and how the Spirit enables us to make lasting change in our lives.
Along the way, we’ve been learning from a theory of change developed by Rev. Lillie Brock. So
far, this theory has taught us that there are three things that motivate us to make changes in our
lives 1) Crisis 2) Chance and 3) Choice. We’ve learned that of those three, crisis motivates us
the most and choice motivates us the least.
Perhaps most importantly, we’ve learned that no matter what motivates us to change, we often
resist it. In order to actually integrate a change in our lives, our brains require us to move through the same six stages.
Two weeks ago we considered stages one and two in this cycle which are about loss and doubt. We talked about the role our internal feelings have in propelling us forward or holding us back when we are undergoing a change. We can’t fully experience something new without feeling that something is missing and we cannot get to a place of certainty in the change process without first feeling at least some amount of uncertainty. Even if we move through these stages quickly, we still move through them.
Last week the two stages in the change cycle we explored were stages 3 and 4 which are
known as the discomfort and discovery stages. In between these two stages is a condition called the danger zone.
Discomfort is what happens where you try something new and although it might look and feel
great when you first try it on, like a pair of shoes that looked and even felt great in the store,
when you get them home and start wearing them suddenly they start to hurt your feet because you’re not used to them.
This week in our final week, we are talking about the final two stages in the change cycle – the green zone. This is the place that feels good – the place where we want to be right from the start. Stage 5 is considered the Understanding stage. This is where we can see the big picture. This is where we apply all the things we learned in our lives and what we know, and we can reason about things. It is the place where we can understand that it is not over. Understanding is a deeper reflection. “I wouldn’t have chosen this, I don’t ever want to go through this again, but I did learn something.” This is where our confidence returns. We become more pragmatic and our productivity returns. When thinking about this stage of Understanding, I was thinking about significant stressful events in my life or even in the past year – and I realize the point that I got to stage five.
I would not have wanted to repeat the stressful event, but I got through the rawness of it, and got to a place where I could reflect back on it and think about what I learned or how I managed it, or the time when I realized that I had the strength and confidence to get through. This is the place where we can decide if the change was a good idea or not. There is a shift from “its all about me – to being more about the whole” As much about others as it is about me.
An example that Lillie Brock uses for this stage is about worship – In worship – if we are doing something that doesn’t speak to you, and you don’t like it too much, the understanding stage is where you are able to just think there’s someone sitting down the pew from you that has just been blessed by that thing that doesn’t speak to you. And maybe later in the service you’re going to be blessed by something they don’t like so much. So the question is not whether or not we should do it, the question is is it enough that someone is blessed. In this stage of understanding, there is a balance of the change being about me and how I am affected balanced with being about US or about the community.
Cooperation with each other much better in this stage. We hear each other better and listen to each other better in this stage.
Brain research shows that the only way to get through stage five to stage six, we have to understand and identify the benefits to us. So still this stage really still is about US. But it is more about Intrinsic benefit. So saying someone else has been blessed, and that’s good enough for me, is intrinsic. Even if it is about someone else’s benefit.
Stage 6 is integration: This is where we find ourselves doing something enough that it becomes second nature. The new thing or new way of being becomes more familiar than different. We are more satisfied with ourselves and with the whole process. We feel some amount of goodness about having come this far. We are able to focus our attention much more. We are not so scattered. We are generous. Our capacity and opportunity to give back to someone or something returns.
This green part of the change wheel is where we can look back and realize that we had the courage and the tools and the support from others to make it through the difficult change.
In today’s reading, Peter is invited to take a big step. He steps out, and then realizes that he is afraid – maybe he gets stuck in that danger zone of the change wheel, perhaps in the doubt or discomfort – until he receives the encouragement from Jesus. Jesus reaches out his hand to let him know that he is not alone, and he is able for a moment, to walk on water. For a moment Peter walked on water. It may not happen every time. We may not see positive results each time, but we are never alone in it and God is always with us. But for a moment because of his courage, he walked on water. He did something that the rest of us might never have tried. What is a first step toward a change in your life that you have been contemplating? Is there something that you have been considering, but feels like too much of a risk to take that first step? Take a moment now and consider one small step that you could take in pursuit of this change.
When we work through this change cycle enough, it becomes easier to be able to step back into stage 1, the place where the change occurs. This is resilience. The more we do it, we build a neuropathway for change. And if we use that neuropathway over and over again, eventually when we reach stage six, we can make a choice to step into stage 1 again. The more we do it, the easier it becomes.
We know that change involves a cycle, so even having gone through it, it is not necessarily easier when the change happens, especially if it is in the midst of crisis, but we know and we remember that it is part of a cycle, and if we make it through, we may even have something to share and to learn.
Change happens for so many reasons, and there is real pain involved. It helps us when we have the tools and resilience to deal with those moments that are so incredibly painful – to be able to strengthen our resilience so that we can help, bring a word of hope, to know what we need to go through to make something positive happen from it.
Sometimes we end up being the encourager of others because we have gone through similar things before and have developed some skills or helpful experience to share – and sometimes it just helps, knowing that someone has been in the difficult place that we are now and has made it through. This practice of change and growth are good skills to have.
We are called to make this world a better place. We are called to change. The whole narrative of our faith is about change. Henri Nouwen talks about being Taken, Blessed, Broken, Given. There’s something about the change cycle that depicts this because it’s how we’re made. Change is the place where we are taken. It breaks us in some way, but not as something to fear. Breaks us as a reminder of who we are and what we have yet to learn. Then we are given back to the people we serve – who need us in a number of ways. This is an important part of our spiritual life, this growth and understanding and learning.
With each step forward, we gain courage to move into those possibilities. The encouragement that we receive from the community and loved ones comes from the holy, the divine presence in our lives. Just as Jesus reaches out his hand and grabs Peter, we are never alone. Just because we get into the green zone, doesn’t mean we won’t get back into the red zone at times, but we are never alone. The road won’t be easy. We must have courage to take those steps and accept encouragement – the root word of both the word courage and encouragement, is the same word for heart “Coeur” that makes up the word. This is the love that we have for making the world a better place. When we have faith and keep our eyes on our goals and priorities, and accept Jesus’s hand in the helping hands of the people around us, it makes our challenges a little less challenging and our struggles a little easier. Like Peter, taking that first step on the water – this is what happens when we lean into the possibilities, having the courage to take those first steps. Have faith, step out in courage, be encouraged, for we are never alone. Thanks be to God.