Posted: 5/25/18 at 11:50am. Column by Ed Jordan.
One of my favorite books is The Challenge of Change in Organizations: Helping Employees Thrive in the New Frontier by Nancy J. Barger and Linda K. Kirby. It really is a great book, even if the title leaves you saying: “Really?” It was written in 1995, and change and me have a long history—which isn’t over yet.
The book used the pioneers traveling the Oregon Trail from St. Louis, Missouri, to Oregon to depict some of the changes people encounter as they leave one place in search of a better life in their faith-envisioned future. The trip was 2,000 miles across plains, rivers, canyons, deserts, and high snow-covered mountains.
They had to take with them most of what they would need in the new land and fit it all into a wagon, which was normally 12’ long, 2.5’ high, and 3.5’ wide—about 105 cubic feet. The average journey took 161 days—without showers, fresh food, fresh water, or restrooms.
They had to leave their relatives, homes, and the familiar comforts of civilization. They experienced denial, anger, depression, guilt, and fear all along the trail. How would you have liked to be the leader of a group like that?
It was emotionally messy. But they had a destination, and when they could keep their eyes on the goal, the journey went better. The pioneers traveled together, saw each other at their best and worst, fought one another, protected each other, and tried to hold things together until their journey ended.
Many of these pioneers packed their heirlooms in the wagons—things passed down to them from their families. But many of these valuable items had to be discarded along the way, left by the trailside because they were too heavy for the horses to pull over the Rockies.
We all have things from the past that we hang onto because of their emotional value to us. But when we arrive at a point where we must either hold onto those items and die on the mountain—or decide to leave them behind to get over the mountain alive—tough decisions become easier.
One thing that helps get us through chaotic times like that is to fix our eyes on the destination, and another is having a process that will move us toward arrival at that destination. Another invaluable asset is having an experienced leader who has traveled the road before and knows some solutions to the problems that might pop up around the next bend.
All of us are caught up in the chaos of change, be it personal, cultural, familial, physiological, psychological, age-related, or organizational. Life is change. As I write, old cells are dying and flaking off, with new cells growing to replace them. Change is inevitable. Reactions to changes are many: try to deny it, ignore it, resist it, manage it, or… tie a lasso to it and hang on for the ride!
Like those pioneers, we experience the burdens that life can bring us. Sometimes we are weighed down by memories of the past, whether good ones or bad ones. Sometimes we are burdened down by those things we cannot let go of. Sometimes we create our own burdens and then get mad at God for “letting this happen.” Sometimes burdens are placed upon us that we had nothing to do with, but they end up on our shoulders anyway. And the more we wrestle with them, the more exhausted we become.
A word of advice from God to each of us is found in Psalm 55:22 (ESV): “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.”
God invites you to lift your head and to lift up your eyes to him, turn the burden over to him, and let him sustain you on life’s journey. Even when it feels like no one else cares, God cares.