January 05, 2017
"I knew I wasn't going to play forever, and I accepted it," Ben Eager said. "It's nice to have a little break from the game, but suddenly you're not around the guys and you don't have the same routine and schedule. No nice planes and buses.” Playing hockey was Eager's life, but when he could no longer call himself a hockey player, life had to go on. The next step was to find things to fill his days and nights. (Chicago Tribune, January 4, 2017)
The quote above is from an article about several former Chicago Blackhawk hockey players who are now retired. They all found the adjustment difficult. Some went into deep depressions due the combination of numerous concussions and lacking purpose. Their whole life had been about hockey. Now that life was gone.
Change isn't easy. Although that isn’t true of all change.
A new year marks a time of official change. We leave a year behind and get a fresh start. We make resolutions, plans to change. We are going to lose weight, eat more healthy, get our finances in order, travel more, work less, rearrange our priorities. There is an endless list of things people want to change.
Some change is planned.
We set goals that we want to accomplish. That is planned change. We may have plans to take classes, graduate from a program, move to a new home, buy a new car, master a new skill, take a particular vacation, or expand our business.
Some change is unplanned.
Illnesses come, accidents happen, the economy takes a downturn, a planned purchase falls through, a storm strikes (literally or figuratively), or like the retired Blackhawks, we are surprised by the results of a change we initiate.
Sometimes we experience change over which we have no control. A favorite restaurant closes, there are employee cuts at work, our bank changes the way deposits can be made, our favorite teacher retires, an institution alters the structure of their programs.
I can’t remember where I picked up this nugget but it puts a lot of life in perspective: “All change is experienced as loss and accompanied by grief.”
Isn’t that exactly what was going on with the Blackhawk retirees? They went through a change, retiring from their occupation. They experienced it as loss. What had been the center of their life for years was now gone. They grieved, although they probably didn’t identify it as such. They struggled, experienced depression, they were angry, and they were lost for a while. They needed to redefine their identity and their purpose in life.
I’m not a prophet, but I can say with certainty that all of us will experience change in the coming year. The question is…How will we respond?
One grief response is anger. When we are angry and frustrated with change, it is often because we haven’t yet identified it as a loss that’s accompanied by grief. We think we are angry about change, but we are really grieving our loss.
When I first started coaching girls basketball in Michigan, the season was in the fall. It had always been that way. The Michigan High School Athletic Association decided to change the season so that girls basketball would be a winter sport. People were angry. It would be the demise of girls basketball. The reality was that Michigan was one of only two states in the country at the time that didn’t have girls basketball in the winter. The change had a few hiccups, like all change does, but eventually it smoothed out and girls basketball has changed little in Michigan because of the change of seasons.
Change is experienced as loss and accompanied by grief.
There has never been a greater change agent than Jesus. He turned the religious establishment upside down. He transformed societal norms. He defeated death through his resurrection. He turns values, morals, attitudes and perceptions upside down.
Jesus is the ultimate change agent. He is also the way we cope with change.