Familiarity is a powerful force. Like a magnet it has the ability to draw us in or keep us held in place; regardless of the healthfulness of the situation. Familiarity off-sets change, and change is one of the most feared circumstances humans face. Change requires of us to break through old scars, break through the glass ceiling and reach into the unknown.
We can’t stop change. At times change brings into our experience an ugliness that nearly destroys us. At other times it is what breathes new life into our being and forces us to grow toward that which we desire. Oddly enough, even knowing that some change is for the best we fear it just the same; or at least most of us do. And so we cling to that which is familiar. It is why some people sit in church. It is why my mother dutifully watched her soap opera each and every day. Familiarity.
Although I can’t give a percentage, suffice it to say a great many sitting in what is called the house of God do not sit there to strengthen their resolve and live a bit more like a benevolent sage or teacher; they do not sit there to be reminded of how to be a better person. They sit there because the routine soothes their mind. Short of a few superficial changes, all things within the confines of those four walls remains the same. Change is nearly non-existent and the familiarity works like a balm to the mind that feels powerless to the upheaval of every day life. It is something they can count on, and I do not fault them for seeking it out. We all need our own singular way of counteracting that which unsteadies us. In a world that constantly rocks like a boat amidst stormy seas, the well-choreographed routines of a church service offers a calm that can be counted upon. Of course, it is for that same reason I feel so many within the church balk adamantly when the church inches toward adjusting its beliefs, approach to living or guidelines. If the very thing in which they count on not to change – changes – then what.
My mother grumbles in the same way when her beloved daytime program, filled with love, lust, turmoil and resurrected-from-the-dead-characters throws in something new. It doesn’t feel right to her, and she doesn’t want any part of it. The familiarity of the scripted lives of the soap opera characters comforts her; even if their lives are full of chaos. It’s a controlled chaos and in that its routine, choreographed and safe.
The boldest amongst us live on the leading edge of change. I can’t say I am one of those, even though I’m currently working through an enormous amount of change in my life. Currently, my only routine-familiarity is the sound of my voice as I write; something about the sound soothes me, even if it is only mine to hear.
I think we need both of these great forces in our life: change and familiarity. Both have their place; one is the force that allows us to grow; the other is like a soft breeze on a stifling day. I think even the great masters found purpose in both. Being on the leading edge, and filled with less fear and insecurity than most, they knew better than to overuse either. So as I start this week, with very little familiarity around me, and great change before me, I will strive to do the same.