January 2013


Shantanu Dutta

Life is about discerning what changes will transfigure and change us for the better.

As someone who works with a human rights organisation and is involved in using the law, I often think about the manner in which law impacts changes in society. Experience shows us that the record is mixed. Sati as a practise which was widely prevalent is today largely extinct except for the odd case reported from here and there. Child marriage too has been illegal for a long time, but child marriage is anything but extinct. So, something that clicked for Sati, did not quite click for child marriages. Finally, how do people change and how do regressive practices disappear?

One of the things that I have grown to realise about people is that they don't easily change. One of the things that I have grown to realise about myself is that I don't change either. There is a plethora of reasons as to why we don't change. It ranges from apathy to ignorance to arrogance to rebellion. We don't like it. We don't create spaces in our lives so change happens. We strive passionately for the mundane and familiar as if our sanity rests in them. People don't change. I do think, however, that people can be formed. We can be formed through disciplines, rituals, repetition and traditions over time.

But for all our resistance to change and preference for the status quo, our lives are changing around us: our economy is changing for the worse, it seems. Marriage is an area of major change in our lives, as are the births of children. And then those children grow up, and marry, and have children of their own. Generations change, and bring change. The world changes around us, as we hear on the news about changes in countries' leadership, shifts in the borders of countries, advances in science and medicine and technology. And here lately it seems like change comes faster than ever.

Change simply is. The seasons change inexorably. We grow older and hopefully wiser. We (hopefully) learn from our experiences and react to things that happen around us. I believe that a Christian response to change is not to embrace every change wholeheartedly, nor to reject every change out of hand to maintain the status quo. Instead, we are called and empowered by God to look at every change, and to respond to it in faith and in the guidance of the Holy Spirit. There is a sense of duality inherent in change. Each opportunity to change presents us with two options: we can embrace it or reject it. What marks us as Christians, as followers of Christ, is how we choose what to do.

If we embrace the change, believing that it is necessary to who we are and who we feel God wants us to be to make the change, then we are growing in our faith and practising the discernment God asks us to use when we make decisions. If we embrace it because we are bored, or simply ready to stir things up, or because we think a change will improve our lives or make someone else's worse, we are perhaps more in danger of changing for change's sake, not for the sake of our relationship with God, and not for the sake of God's kingdom. Likewise, if we reject a change because we truly believe, having prayed and talked to one another and invited the Holy Spirit to guide us, that it is not right for us, then we are making a faithful decision that reflects our relationship with God and convictions about where God would lead us. But if we reject the change because it makes us nervous, because we don't want things to change, because we're trying to protect 'the way things have always been', we are doing a disservice to ourselves and to the kingdom of God. Life is about discerning what changes will transfigure us, will change us for the better, not about simply chasing every new idea without making room for God to have some input, for God to transfigure us and the circumstances.

Jesus brings light into our lives, sharing with us God's love and the strength to make the hard choices in life. When we are faced with change, we can ask ourselves: whose will are we seeking, ours or God's? Whose sense of what is best are we looking for, ours or God's? It is not easy making many of life's choices: where to go to college, when to marry, when to look for a new job or decide where to retire-these are not always easy decisions.

Jesus' way is not the easy way, or the comfortable one. It's not the way of doing what we've always done, just because we've always done it. Nor is it the way of embracing every 'wind of change' that blows by. Instead, we remain steadfastly God's, seeking to do what God wants us to do, transformed by our lives with Jesus Christ, and sharing in the compassion and mercy that has been shown to us. It's definitely not the easy way: the easiest thing is to either simply adopt every new thing that comes along, sure that if we chase the 'next best thing', we'll get it right somehow, or to keep everything the same, rejecting every change for fear it will upset our precarious apple cart, and we won't know who or whose we are any more.

The story is told of an old man who said, "When I was young, I wanted to change the world. I found I could not do that, so I tried to change my community. I found I could not do that, so I tried to change my family. I found I could not do that, so I decided to let God change me." The strange thing is, God did change that man, and as a result, the world was changed. It became a better place.

Maybe, that is the way to go!

Editorial: SCHEMERS - Jacob Ninan





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