The contemporary #MeToo and #NeverAgain movements are part of a watershed moment in American history. But, as much as I want to see positive change in relation to how we treat one another, neither movement will succeed at lasting effect if they rely solely on persuasion; real change occurs after we recognize rational arguments are not enough. Clouded by emotion, our natural inclination is to dig in, become defensive, and resist any idea or change counter to our expectation. In an anxious emotional system, change only occurs when individuals commit to persevere in their principles and in their connection with others.
We live in an age of incredible emotional divisiveness when it comes to politics, ideology, and even community involvement. We are surrounded by ideological lines anxiously drawn in the sand over which we will not cross, regardless of whether where we stand is solid or quicksand. Many of us might cry out over the divisions that surround us, but many also decry any attempt to bridge or eliminate those lines. We’re boxed in, by our own choice; and the emotional ties that bind our hearts cannot be unwound by logic. That’s not to say that change cannot occur…
Systems theory teaches us that positive change in an anxious system can happen; but it takes the commitment of a change agent to one’s principles and to remaining connected to others. While our natural inclination might be to isolate ourselves or withdraw from those with whom we disagree (and, side note, this is something social media allows too readily!), change occurs when we remain connected to others and committed to the values and principles we believe in. When change is introduced, the natural reaction of others in the environment (e.g. family, community, even nation) is toward defensiveness of the status quo, resistance to change, and even sabotage of the change agents’ work. (No doubt you could identify examples of each in modern news reports.)
Change is a type of death. What has been will be no more. And that’s where I think today’s commemoration of holy Saturday can give hope to the change agents in our world who are striving to persevere.
After Jesus’ death, there was a time of waiting. The disciples had lost their Master and, in their view, their hope that he was the Christ. Logic aside, including Jesus’ teachings about the resurrection; holy Saturday was about the emotional response to Jesus’ death.
Saturday is the day after change first occurs – be it positive or negative; sometimes we can’t really tell. But our hope is in resurrection, that after death God can bring forth transformed life.
Culturally, right now seems as though we are stuck in a prolonged holy Saturday. We’re waiting; and waiting isn’t always a passive experience. Some are waiting to take the next step – perhaps like Mary, Joanna, and the other women were waiting to anoint Jesus. Some are waiting, bound by their anxiety, fear, and loss – perhaps like the disciples gathering in a locked upper room. Some are waiting, strengthening their resolve to resist change – perhaps like Herod, Pilate, and the Pharisees.
And waiting alongside us? The Creator of all life. In the resurrection of Christ on Easter Sunday God shows that transformation and new life can occur.
We may be waiting; and our emotional turmoil acute. I am grateful for those who wait not in passivity, but actively maintaining and pursuing their principles toward a healthier world. And I am grateful for the power of resurrection that God can work in our lives and world. Radical, transformative change has happened before; and it will happen again.