Ripples of change

I had a meeting yesterday afternoon with a group of leaders from all kinds of different organisations and denominations to talk about the challenges that we face in affecting change through our various roles.

One of the most consistent questions that was raised, centred around the challenge of affecting change where resistance, opposition or even simply apathy existed in the leadership and management above or inherently within the organisation.

As we discussed these difficulties and the various endeavours that had been undertaken to overcome them, three things became clear to me:

1. The biggest contribution that we can make is to consistently work to affect the greatest influence that we can on the people around us
2. God’s Spirit is ultimately the one at work in all things to breathe existence into dust and life into dry bones
3. We need to be prepared to play a long game and work out how our egos will cope if and when our ideas are implemented by those above and around us without receiving any of the credit

As I reflected on these things, I considered two examples of this.

The first is the story of the demoniac Jesus encounters roaming the graves across the sea of Galilee.

Having healed him and radically changed his life, the man begs to go with Jesus as one of his disciples. However, Jesus denies his request and tells him to return to his own people and tell them what had happened. Jesus then gets in his boat and moves on, back across the lake. It isn’t until later that the ripple effect of this single moment is found when Jesus returns to the area and ends up in a feeding frenzy with 4000 people crowding to hear his teaching and have him heal them. So much of this was transformation was occurring in Jesus’ absence as stories were told, hope and vision caught and expectation created as the Spirit moved in people’s hearts.

As I reflected on this, I was drawn back to the impact and unseen ripple effect that we can have as we consistently live out in word and action the change that we want to see. As we faithfully try and do the little things that we think and know are right we may well be having an impact far beyond what we may see and know as the Spirit enlivens and nurtures in ways that only she can.

The second example that I found myself mulling over was that of the current Pope. Whether you agree with him or not, what I see is a completely unexpected work of the Spirit. When Francis was elected into the role, I’m sure the powers that “are” thought they were getting someone who cared about the poor, but above all was a “company” man. And then God intervened and a fresh wind of the Spirit has begun blowing through the Catholic Church and as a result, Christendom more widely. And behind this I know that there are a lot of people who have been playing the long game, quietly getting on with living the change that they believed needed to come, and praying for the breathe of God to restore life. These are the unheard people who have been quietly working for change, proposing an alternative future and living into that future each day. Yet they are not clamouring to say “this is all my doing, thinking, strategising and planning”. They are rejoicing in seeing the Kingdom come.

And so as I contemplate the struggles that I am facing with helping to shape change, I find myself drawing strength and hope that as I am faithful to do what I can, I can trust God to be faithful to do what only he can in his time and unexpected way so that I might also rejoice in the coming of the long awaited Kingdom through the mystery and beauty of the Spirit.