One of the things that helps when there is transition stress is to remember that progress is pendular. Progress is like a pendulum–it swings back and forth. Two steps forward, one step back. This is the way life works. This is the way we make progress. Life lurches. The church lurches. We move forward, then we fall back to re-consider, re-plan and re-work the best way forward. The step back often feels bad, but this is the time when we re-evaluate, take stock and then move forward again.
The great smiling American success story convinces us that life is one great upward climb of progress with one success building on another. Onward and upward on our merry way! In fact, real progress is not like that. Instead it is a journey of confusion, wrong turnings, mistakes and learning by trial and error. The way forward is one of continued learning and therefore one of the greatest enemies of this real progress is thinking that we know it all and have no more learning to do. Another great enemy of real progress is believing that life really is about getting everything set just right in our comfort zone–setting the automatic pilot and then just flying along with no problems, no conflict, not difficulties.
But that is not life. That is not reality. Life is an adventure which is full of uncertainty, questions, mistakes and glorious failures. In other words, we lurch along–making a mistake here and over correcting there until we have made the other mistake and then have to correct again.
Think of it like this: we like to think that life is like sailing with the wind at our back. We’re headed in the right direction and the wind is with us and all is well with the world. However, more often we have to sail against the wind, and to do so we have to ‘bash’ or ‘break’ the wind. We have to tack one way, then the other–doing a zig zag course always keeping our eye on the destination, but sailing there in a back and forth, difficult zig and zag.
So, if a new pope lurches one way–emphasizing certain aspects of the faith which a previous pope did not, then rejoice for the church is lurching as she is supposed to do. If a pope does something we find disagreeable, then he is just the pope we need for he will challenge our preconceptions and make us think outside the box and get us to re-examine our priorities. This applies to all of us, whoever the pope was.
I’d give this advice to traditionalists who are worried about Pope Francis, but I would have given the same advice to the liberals who didn’t like Pope Benedict. Both popes have much to teach us.
If we will be taught.