I was twenty-five and on staff at a church going through a lot of change.
In staff meetings, one of our pastors read the critical comments that had been left in the offering plates the previous Sunday. Anonymous comments were tossed in the trash. Signed comments were often ridiculed and dismissed because they were authored by older church members.
I didn’t understand why these senior saints were so angry about changes that (to me) were so obviously needed and well-intentioned. And I didn’t care to.
Then our oldest pastor – a pastor to the pastors – broke his silence. Gently, patiently, slowly, he explained to us young’ns that under the older generation’s anger was grief and fear.
“Everything has changed in their lives,” he said. “Their kids bought them phones with bigger numbers on them because their eyes have changed. They don’t understand what their grandkids are saying half the time because the culture has changed. Their friends and wives and husbands have passed on. Movies and music and politics – it’s all changed. And the one thing they thought would never change was this church. And now it’s changing too.”
I’ve never forgotten that lesson – that underneath our anger is often grief and fear. Grief over what’s been lost. Fear of what’s coming.
So many friends on Facebook these days sound angry to me. I’m trying to remember that under their anger might be grief and fear. Their world is changing and they’re trying to stop it.
That doesn’t make them right. But it should make me care.