By Luke Yoder, MSMC Dialogue Resource Team, member of Anabaptist Fellowship of Alamosa

Social media has many valuable functions, not the least of which is spreading cute cat videos and “Grumpy Cat” memes. Second only to cat related sharing is sharing of inspirational quotes. Barry Bartel recently shared with the DRT a “Grumpy Cat” meme paired with an “inspirational” quote. There are only two things I hate: Change, and the way things are. I’m fairly certain social media can serve no higher purpose than this.

Buried within this snarky view of change lies some inherent truth – even when our current reality is difficult, painful, or unstable, change is still difficult.  There are many dynamics that can make change so scary. In fact, there are arenas of research devoted to studying change. Although there are many great resources about effective change processes and methodologies, easy and pain-free change often remains elusive.

Mountain States Mennonite Conference and Mennonite Church USA are both going through fairly significant change. New church plants are developing and being nurtured. Congregations and conferences are aligning with new conference and denominational bodies. New understandings of the intersectionality of social justice issues are emerging. Traditional brick and mortar structures are giving way to more fluid and creative methods of meeting and operating. And as Grumpy Cat so eloquently points out, this change can be uncomfortable. Painful even.

One piece of good news is that although change is inevitable and often uncomfortable, change can lead to many good and wonderful things. Think about all the times that each of us has made personal commitments to change. How great is it when those extra few pounds melt away after we struggle to change our eating and exercise habits? How big is the sense of accomplishment when we see our savings account finally grow after working diligently to create and maintain a disciplined budget? How deeply meaningful is it when we commit to walking through a process to repair a broken relationship? Each of these changes involves struggle, perseverance, and sticking to a process.

As a restorative justice practitioner, I have the opportunity to see firsthand the many good and wonderful things that can be brought about through a process designed for change. In a restorative justice process, a youth who has committed a crime has the opportunity to come face-to-face with those who have been impacted by their actions. Facilitators create a safe and intentionally designed process for the youth and those impacted by their actions to sit down with one another, hear from the other parties involved, create a plan of action to repair the harms that were experienced, and, ultimately, experience positive change in their relationships and behaviors moving forward.

This process can be excruciatingly painful as the youth hears directly about the harms their actions have caused. It can be difficult to agree on the action items necessary to repair harm experienced. It can be challenging to complete all of the items necessary to repair harm. However, due to the commitment of the parties involved, positive change occurs much more often than not.

Similarly, as our church structures and institutions undergo change, change can be healthy and positive. That is not to say it will be easy. But if we can commit to the goals we hold in common and supporting one another when things become difficult, we can begin to show Grumpy Cat that change is not something to be feared or hated. Change can bring new excitement, energy, and life.

May you all experience the goodness of change, as we begin our journey into 2017!

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