Change transforms us

Birds teach us that we all have different strengths when responding to life’s inevitable changes.

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Photo: Getty Images

Since my early teen years, I’ve harbored a more than mild interest in our feathered friends. My ninth-grade teacher had a remarkable love of the outdoors, particularly birds. He helped us observe the markings of birds, pushing us to be attentive to a bird’s location by listening for the chirps, whistles and screeches unique to each species.

One of the greatest gifts given to me as a young pastor was learning how to identify the primary “personal styles” of individuals the pastoral staff worked and interacted with. One of the components of an effective team was exploring our various gifts and personalities, seeking to use each part to contribute to the team for greatest “wins.”

Social scientists have identified four personal styles each of us demonstrate in varying degrees and combinations. You may be familiar with CRG’s Personal Style Indicator, DISC or Enneagram. To help me remember, I use birds to identify these four styles.

As we “learn from the birds” (Matthew 6:26), let’s ask ourselves which bird—or combination—most closely corresponds with how we receive information, interact with others and approach new opportunities—change.

Four personal styles

The eagle sees the big picture and has a prevailing tendency to envision things well into the future. These individuals tend to ask the “what” question: “What will we do? What will we become?” Eagles are change-agents and call for action.

The parrot seeks to influence his or her surroundings and relationships, often calling others to come on board with change, especially if it creates excitement. Expressive and articulate, these people ask “who” questions: “Who is coming with us? Who will be there?” Parrots rally others to join the party.

The dove is adept at responding to his or her environment, promoting harmony and understanding. Often balanced between reason and feeling, they ask the “why” questions: “Why is this change good? Why will this be better?” The dove’s interpersonal skills bring others along; their commitment to be steady keeps everyone moving forward.

The owls pay attention to details and facts, often contributing to the group by providing analysis. They value safety and security and have a remarkable ability for correct processes, outcomes and clear articulation. An owl will often ask the “how” questions: “How will we make this change? How can this be done well?” Owls enter change with caution and reason.

We’ve heard it said, “Change is our only constant.” Wired by God in different ways, we may try to push for change, come on board with it, resist it or analyze it. The fact remains—change happens! Staying “as-is” is a choice to perish. The birds teach us that we all have different strengths and methods for responding to life’s inevitable changes.

Change transforms

The speed of change in the last few years has caught us off-guard and most of us have a hard time keeping up with it, even the change-makers. For those who would like life to go back to normal, I’m sorry to inform you that it just will not happen.

Think about the new cultural ideas or words that have entered our vocabulary recently: cancel culture, woke, gender identities, global elitism, vaccine injury, drag for kids, health passports, lockdowns, censorship, misinformation, conspiracy theories, MAGA, hashtags, BLM and the list goes on. These words represent ideological shifts.

For some people change offers the promise of new opportunities while others can only see danger. Some people quickly rally to a new cause while others are doubtfully critical. Still others hesitantly hang back to care for those who get lost in the shuffle while others retreat into depressing seclusion. All of us will respond differently depending on our personality styles, the character traits we have been developing or how we have learned to trust God.

One thing is certain, change transforms us.

  • Change forces us to consider how we view truth and while some personalities are more apt to “go along with it” others evaluate or even challenge what they may have held to be true. What we might consider to be common knowledge suddenly is not so common anymore
  • Change can invite—and often motivates—us to assess our relationships. Most people prefer being with others who see the world in similar ways. Like the surrounding culture, many Christians have jumped into cancelling others who disagree with them. Have you noticed how difficult it is to disagree with others? A difference of opinion can easily shut down the conversation or terminate a relationship. Open dialogue, listening carefully to each other and learning from one another helps us get closer to the truth and invites us to live in grace toward one another. As we navigate challenging relationships, let’s do our best to listen and love others well, despite our differences.
  • Change pushes us to think about our spiritual well-being. We evaluate how we view the world, truth, our understanding of God. In the face of change, some of us question God’s timing or strength and even his promises to us while others find comfort and confidence in God’s timing, strength and promises.

We may think COVID-19 is behind us, but its effects remain. Perhaps you continue to struggle with your health, now live without a loved one or are facing an unexpected financial difficulty. You may be afraid of what might be coming: increasing family misunderstandings, food shortages, a church split, global disaster, political conflict. Maybe you see the opportunities for evangelism, a new career or expanded relationships. Whatever your situation, change around you will transform you on the inside—for good or for evil.

We need the flock

Back to the birds. No matter what “bird” we are, our perspectives, insights, questions and advice are important. Now more than ever, the flock matters. As the apostle Paul reminds us, “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” It is easy to divide over our differences rather than focus on the One who unites us through the work of the cross.

In times of change we need one another to help us be transformed into the image of Christ (Romans 12:1-2). Depending on our personalities, experiences or the depth of our faith in Jesus Christ, we will respond differently to what is happening in our world, and so we need to give each other grace. Let us encourage each other to continually be transformed into the image of Christ and to live out the character qualities of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

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