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JOE LAGUARDIA: Discomfort of change necessary to grow closer with God

I am not a fan of change. I like my routine, and I like the predictable, boring and mundane. My feathers get ruffled easily if things are out of order.

Just ask my church: I've been pastor of Trinity for quite some time now, and the only thing I've changed in worship in the past three years is where the pastoral prayer takes place in our liturgy. When an influential deacon in my church once recommended that we change the seating configuration in the sanctuary, I gasped as if he told me we declared nuclear war.

If I were a bettin' man, I'd venture that most folks in our community are not prone to change. Here in the southern part of Rockdale County, I am used to meeting neighbors and churchgoers who've lived in their homes long enough to remember when most roads were made of dirt. Many remember when the Honey Creek Country Club was among the newer subdivisions and Deer Run only had a few homes.

I would also guess that we suburban and rural folk also like a God who doesn't change either. We like God to be predictable, consistent, and, yes, boring and mundane at times. Why else would we have liturgies at church that don't change other than the fact that we assume that God is like us and likes things just how they are?

Unfortunately, things do change. Eventually, some folks will join the worship committee and recommend that the Doxology not be included in every worship service. Someone will come along and move our cheese; others will replace the pulpit with a plexiglass podium or move the pulpit altogether and get themselves fired.

Since change happens, however, I also know that God changes too. Now, don't rush off so quickly and send me emails; I know that the Bible says, "I the Lord do not change" (Malachi 3:6).

Sure, we know that God does not change the overarching goal of redeeming all humanity and inaugurating a "new heaven and a new earth" (Rev. 21:1). That is not the change I am talking about.

I am talking about the type of change that happens when we pray and see God differently in our lives because we get to know Him better and have an ever-deeper relationship that matures over time. You see, it is not God who changes when we pray and grow closer to Him so much that it is we who change.

Sometimes the only way to grow in our faith is to change, even when change is chaotic and unpredictable. Gasp.

Yes, God changes when our perspectives of God change. For example, years ago people assumed God preferred segregated schools only to find out that God probably did not intend that way of life after all. It was not God who had a change of heart about race relations, it was us.

Other perspectives about God change also. When we get on our knees and "pray unceasingly," we realize that God is just as much a loving, compassionate and gracious God as He is one who will eventually "judge the living and the dead."

When we grow closer to God through an intentional and consistent life of discipleship, God goes from being an aloof "grandpa" figure to a compassionate Abba who loves with us.

Jesus goes from being an ancient figure in history to a brother who "walks with me and talks with me and tells me I am his own" (from the hymn, "In the Garden").

We change and realize that we need to exchange some bad habits for healthy ones, to be compassionate and take risks rather than cower in fear from supposed threats to our well-being. Change is scary indeed.

Jesus calls us to follow Him; but, I'll be honest, I'd rather sit on my couch and eat potato chips because that's my routine. It's inconvenient to get out of my comfort zone. However, if I really want to follow Jesus, I will have to replace my cup of Coke for the cup of God's will, get up and follow Him.

The Rev. Joe LaGuardia is the senior pastor of Trinity Baptist Church, 301 Honey Creek Road, Conyers. Email him at trinitybc3@bellsouth.net or visit www.trinityconyers.org.