One of my favorite movies is “Grumpy Old Men” with Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon. This film is a somewhat crass, somewhat sentimental look at aging and friendship. Maybe I like this movie because, as my kids tell me, I’m a “grumpy old man.” Maybe I enjoy the film because it includes a lot of ice fishing scenes. But this movie, “Grumpy Old Men,” has not only become one of my favorites, but a favorite picture for our family to watch together.
In this movie a friend of Matthau’s (Max), and Lemmon’s (John) dies. Their friend, Chuck, had been with them at the bait shop the day before. But then Chuck is found dead of natural causes. So Matthau’s character utters a statement I can still hear. “I hate change! Nothing good ever comes from it.” I believe most of us struggle with change, even if changes might bring some improvement in our lives. We become comfortable in old routines and habits. And if our world shifts, it might me we need to live differently. How about you, do YOU hate change?
Change is a big part of my life these days. Having retired at the end of August, the demands on my time have changed big time. As others told me I would experience, I don’t believe I have been less busy. My time is just being spent on tasks that are not specifically those of my former job as pastor at St. John Lutheran. I am still spending time in devotions and reading God’s Word, and I’m still spending time in prayer. I still write my weekly devotions, and I am also still preaching, only in other congregations. However, the demands of work are not 25/8, I am finding my time a little less rushed, and I am also finding opportunities to accomplish some chores which had been neglected around the home.
Still . . . there is a way in which I found meaning and purpose in what I did and how I served as pastor. And, I love the people I served. While part of me can appreciate my new freedom, there is another part of me that is uttering the words of Matthau’s character, Max. “I hate change!”
However, that is an unrealistic attitude. One constant in our world is that life changes. We grow older. Our families get bigger, and then smaller. Work and health are constantly in flux. And the biggest change we all face is death. What else should we expect in a world of sin?
Yet, in our changing lives, in our world, where nothing seems to stay the same, there is one constant. In Malachi 3:6, when the people of Israel are struggling, God tells them through the prophet, “I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.” And, the writer to the Hebrews comforts that church as it faces persecution and suffering, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” ( Hebrews 13:8) In a world where change causes anxiety, and fear, and grief, God stays the same. We can count on HIM!
In fact, perhaps Romans 8 tells us the greatest hope we have because God is unchanging and trustworthy. “38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8: 38-39) In a world where our rebellion brings the difficulties of change, and where our sin brings the grief of death, nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Jesus’ forgiving love, and His gracious salvation are sure. When we believe in Jesus we can’t be separated from this love.
God never changes. And, as I seek to grow as a child of God in this journey of retirement, this sure love of God in Jesus gives strength, endurance, and peace.
So, Max hated change in the movie, “Grumpy Old Men.” But all of us face change. It is how we face the changes of life which we experience that makes a difference. If we know that nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord,” then we can face anything. If we know that nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord,” change is not something to fear, but a new opportunity to serve God and love His people.