Changes (I): Change vs. Improvement

I admit it: I’m a Trekker.  Well, not the kind that puts on costumes and plays with tricorders, but I have enjoyed the various incarnations of the Star Trek universe over the last five decades.  So, it’s no wonder that I had to look up the reference when I came across the following quote on a Star Trek-flavored internet meme: “Change is the essential process of all existence.”  It turns out that the line was penned by screenwriter Oliver Crawford for the 15th episode of season 3 of the original series, and delivered in inimitable fashion by Leonard Nimoy’s Mr. Spock.  On January 10, 1969, NBC aired the episode, “Let This Be Your Last Battlefield,” an allegory on race relations involving a fugitive alien being pursued by another of the same species, but a different race of that species.  Their variance was not with overall skin color, but the pattern of the skin color.  While each man was shaded black and white, the colors were different such that one was black on the right side, while the other was black on the left.

It is interesting that I should come across this line this very morning, as I had already awakened thinking about changes.  There are many variations in such aphorisms and adages on the theme of change.  For example, “Change is the only constant.”  And then there is the observation that, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

I have thought for years about how the Bible is full of changes, and outside the initial act of cosmic creation, virtually nothing mentioned came from nothing, but resulted from changes to the existing order.  In the Genesis story, man was formed from the dust of the ground, woman was formed from a rib of man.  Patriarchal guidance and governance gave way to the Mosaic Law, which was superseded by the Way of Christ.  Tabernacle worship gave way to Temple worship, which transformed into Synagogue worship (necessitated by the episodes of captivity), which then likely influenced early church worship practices. 

C.S. Lewis noted in his book, Miracles, that the miracles Jesus performed were not acts of magic, with objects being created ex nihilo: water was turned to wine, loaves and fishes multiplied.  In neither case was the end product pulled out of a proverbial hat.  The miraculous act was a demonstration of mastery over nature by skipping steps, as it were.  The very mention of a virgin birth requires the participation of the natural in the demonstration of the supernatural. 

Car designer, Ferdinand Porsche, once said, “Change is easy.  Improvement is far more difficult.”  And that is as true of life in general as in the automobile industry.  While we cannot halt the inexorable march of time or the impending ultimate change wrought by our inevitable mortality, we can affect the changes that define us while we have some measure of control over our lives.  We don’t have to float with the current; we can swim against it.  We can change directions.  We do not have to accept the fate that inaction dictates.  We can improve.

And that is what genuine Christianity is all about.  In the Genesis account of creation, God surveyed his work, and declared it all—including humankind—to be “very good.”  Then came the fall, and everything changed, but for the worse.  Humanity was unable to perfectly keep a rigid code of combined religious/moral/civil law, so God provided a different way of life, a way to restore humankind to its former place of being part of that “very good” creation. 

Jesus taught the necessity of change, but not just for the sake of change.  He called people to change their ways from self-centeredness and selfish pursuits to lives of simplicity and service, lives where we use our skills and talents to help others and show God’s light and love shining through us.  Jesus called people not just to change, but to improvement.

Life is indeed about change.  Collin Raye’s beautiful performance of Tom Douglas and Jim Daddario’s wonderful song, “Love Remains,” describes the passages through which we travel in life.  From its “once upon a time” opening—“We are born one fine day, children of God, on our way…”—to the epic conclusion— “We all live we all die but the end is not goodbye /  The sun comes up, and seasons change, / But through it all, love remains”—the song talks about the inevitability of change, with love being the constant lodestar.  Now, to those who are familiar with the writings of John in the New Testament, the connection between “love” and God is obvious.  With love as a guiding principle, change in the sense of improvement should be easier.  We seek to be more like Jesus—the physical manifestation of God=the incarnation of love—and that will require constant change, since we will never reach that pinnacle of perfection in this present life.

While change may bring apprehension, there is also an excitement about it.  We celebrate the coming of the New Year, not mourn the passing of the old.  We celebrate the births of our children, which as we are constantly reminded, changes everything.  We seek better jobs, better cars, better houses…and there is nothing wrong with that, as long as we remember that the greatest changes, the greatest, most lasting improvements are those that are within us.  Jesus calls us to be better people, and to show it through our love for others.  That is the continuing change I aspire to most.  And while I really dislike the practice of making New Year’s Resolutions (resolutions so lightly made are easily broken), it is my hope that the coming year will bring more change in the right direction, not only for me, but for everyone who seeks to share God’s grace in whatever way they are called.  We can make this the best year yet.   So to each and all: grace, peace, and a sincere hope for continued growth and improvement in the coming year, and for always and beyond.       


One Response to Changes (I): Change vs. Improvement

  1. Pingback: “THESE THREE REMAIN” | To Proclaim Wondrous Deeds

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