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Friday Minute: Change can help us adapt and flourish

Published: Friday, Feb. 17 2012 5:00 a.m. MST

I don’t like change. From driving the same route to work every day, to ordering the identical menu item at my favorite restaurant, I am a creature of habit.

Yet, everything around me forces adaptation. For example, the moment I bought my new cellphone a techie friend moaned in disapproval, "You should’ve waited for next week’s upgrade!"

Go figure. Many from my baby-boom generation feel the pace of life is accelerating to the point that we can’t catch up, let alone compete. That said, there is at least one change whose pace we set and which is ultimately beneficial.

Transformation of self

The most prickly change is the transformation of self. Things we once embraced may have faded from our hearts, while things we once dismissed may now be cherished.

Even aging itself is a lesson in self-transformation and adaptation.

Spiritually speaking, the transformation from the natural man to the selfless soul can be grinding indeed, but with polished results. Such was the case for a certain brother.

The Parable of the Prodigal Son

In the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), a wayward son received a celebratory welcome home feast after squandering his inheritance in "riotous living" (15:13). Jealous of his younger brother, the eldest son, faithful since his youth, complained about the welcome mat for his spendthrift sibling.

His father counseled, "Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine...be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found" (Luke 15:32).

While this parable teaches repentance and forgiveness, it is also rich in its condemnation of jealousy and selfishness.

When unexpected change pummels our peace, we often feel jealous of our individual loss.

By focusing on ourselves, the perceived injustice of change can erupt into stubborn resistance. Like the prodigal’s brother, we may even refuse to acknowledge our kinship with a family member whose own difficulties force us to confront our character flaws.

Better to ask than to question

Whether change is internal or external, questioning our circumstance can lead to emotional paralysis. It is better to ask, "What lessons can I learn?" A willingness to learn from new circumstances and then act on that learning is the key to bearing burdens and improving our response to change.

Seasons of change

Perhaps the most inevitable change comes with the dispensations of our lives. From childhood to newlywed, from callow parent to sage grandparent, our individual rhythm beats with the changing seasons.

Without the syncopation of change, we couldn’t grow any more than a string of identical musical notes could evolve from monotone to symphony.

Rather than curse change, even the abrupt or unexpected, we can adapt and flourish at every stage of life as we recognize that: "To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven" (Ecclesiastes 3:1).

At home in my citrus orchard, I can imagine each tree bristling with complaint as I prune the overgrowth for the good of the tree and the harvest. While change is not easy for trees or men, we can acknowledge that a master gardener knows our seasons and the sweetness of its fruit.

Besides, if we honestly compare the person we are to the person we have the power to become, that potential change "should give us great spiritual hope" (Elder Neal A. Maxwell, "Becoming A Disciple," Ensign, June, 1996).

Peace in a changing world is certainly not achieved by being swept up in that change, nor by cursing its currents. The only real peace is the change that occurs in the polish of character.

Like the prodigal and his complaining brother, the changing mirror of self-examination is always gut-wrenching at first, but worth the glimpse of God in the process.

William Monahan graduated from BYU law school. An Air Force veteran and former Phoenix stake president, he teaches law and serves as a high councilor for QC Chandler Heights Stake in Arizona. He will begin service July 2012 as a mission president.

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