Mumford and Sons became incredibly popular after their album “Sigh No More” came out in 2009. They started playing sold out concerts to huge venues around the globe. Then, in 2012, they came out with another album called “Babel.” That album was panned by critics for sounding too much like the first one.
In the 2004 presidential campaign John Kerry was relentlessly attacked for being a flip-flopper, that is a politician who changes positions on an issue. Several politicians have done so (Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, John McCain, etc.) so it’s not as if Kerry was unique. Nearly every politician that does change positions, though, is branded as a flip-flopper and it often harms a politician’s career to make such a change.
Our culture wants changes in our artists (unless it’s too much, I’m looking at you 70s Beatles), but we want our politicians to remain forever unchanging no matter what happens.
There was a young rabbi who wanted to make a name for himself. He was doing well: he had the best teacher around and spent time attending to the important issues of Judaism. He was a rising star, but he wanted to do more. So he talked to the leaders and received a special commission. They asked him to go on a business trip on behalf of the leadership of Judaism.
On the road Saul of Tarsus was struck blind and confronted by Jesus. He flip-flopped pretty quickly after that.
Mumford’s second album did sound quite a bit like their first. They kept the same basic formula of starting out simply and then building the song to a powerful climax.
John Kerry did change his mind about the war in Iraq. He thought one thing was the right choice and then switched later.
Change is difficult. When we don’t do it we’re criticized. When we do it we’re criticized. It seems like there’s no good choice in the matter.
Saul, who became Paul, was so against the idea of change that he persecuted and killed Christians because they were trying to change his religion. He was so resistant to change that Jesus had to strike him blind to start the process. But then he became an advocate and champion of change constantly preaching and teaching about Jesus and his ability to change everyone from the inside out.
Change is tough.
Have you ever done one of those activities with the inflatable track and the bungee cords where you have to run against it as far as you can before it pulls you back? Sometimes change feels like that. We’re attached to the past and the harder we pull against it, the harder it pulls back against us. Other times it feels like the bungee cord is at the new place pulling us forward as we try to resist moving.
One thing that doesn’t get mentioned very often about the conversion of Saul is that he lost everything by making a change. He was the golden child of the Pharisees. His future was incredibly bright. He gave all that up when he converted to Christianity, but he didn’t gain a community of friends inside the church -- not at first anyway. He spent years in isolation where his old friends wouldn’t talk to him and his new community didn’t trust him (to be fair, he had tried to arrest and kill them).
Change is loss.
We give up something when we change. Mumford would have lost the audience that only wanted their original stuff. Politicians lose the people who supported them in the past. Saul lost both his old and new communities. We must give up something when we change. There’s a risk involved.
Change is life.
If we don’t change, move, and grow, we end up stagnating and dying. It’s impossible to stay the same, no matter how hard we try. We are born changing and we will change until the day we die. At first the changes aren’t voluntary. We are taught in school and we don’t have any say in the matter. But as we get older we have more choice in the changes that happen.
The bungee cord feeling is a good thing. It helps us to not change too quickly. If the cords are really strong, they’ll keep us from changing. If they aren’t very strong, we’ll be able to overcome them and move to a new place.
The process of doubt, questioning, searching, and finding truth is like looking at your bungee cords. You get to see which ones connect you to good things, which ones connect you to things you don’t really like and which way they’re pulling you. Knowing what cords are attached to you doesn’t stop them from pulling on you, though.
Change is a process.
You don’t change overnight. Even Paul, after Jesus smacked him down, took three years to process what had happened and to learn about Jesus. You’ll still feel the pull of the cords, even as you’re fighting against them. But you can know which steps to take and in which direction when you engage in change purposefully rather than just letting it happen to you.
What’s your favorite band (or author)? Do you go back to them because you’ll get more of the same or because they will always surprise you?
When you go on vacation, do you always go to the same place or do you like to try new and different things?
Have you experienced a significant changes in taste? Like do you prefer spicy food now, but you used to hate it? Do you like rap now but used to think it was dumb?
What has helped you to make changes in your life?
What has prevented you from making changes?
Would you prefer that your religious life had more or less change in it? Why do you think that is?