Don’t Move My Chalkboard

I remember the day that every school classroom had a chalkboard.  If you can remember, the erasers were often full of dusty chalk and filled the air with a white cloud.  For that matter, even when you wiped the chalkboard with the eraser, it always left a chalky residue.  I even remember sneezing a few times after breathing chalk dust.  And, of course, I always had to wash my hands to clean my hands of the chalk dust.  I, for one, welcomed the replacement of the chalkboard with the dry erase board.  But, apparently a few teachers and professors, and I’m sure a few students, were none too happy to see their chalkboard go to the landfill or maybe a museum somewhere.  What about you? Have you resisted change even if the change was the removal of your chalkboard?

One teacher in particular, that I was familiar with, told the school administration in no uncertain terms, “don’t move my chalkboard.”  When the principal asked why, “he was told that the fumes from the dry erase markers were dangerous to the health of the students.” Well, of course, this alarmed the principal, so the principal made phone calls and researched the issue. Yes, the principal found some truth in the teacher’s statement, but the markers weren’t hazardous enough to delay the installation of white boards throughout the school.  However, the principal wondered why the teacher didn’t mention the possible negative effects of breathing chalk dust. In fact, after the principal had a heart-to-heart talk with the teacher, he found that the teacher simply preferred the chalkboard over the whiteboard. He even said he enjoyed the smell of chalk.

If you think about it, this story is a very familiar one.  After all, how many of us have a chair or couch at home that needs to be replaced but we just can’t part with it?  Why? You know why. It is comfortable and broken in just like we like it.  And, it likely has some sentimental value.  You know, something on the order of belonging to someone we loved.  In this case, it’s your home and your choice so it may not be such a bad thing. But how many of us have unnecessarily held on to things, even when they were broken and unusable? Worse yet, we held on to that thing even when we knew we could have increased our productivity with a new model. Is it because we dread change? Or is it because this “thing” gave us a certain feeling of comfort or familiarity?

If you’re willing to take a long, hard look at your fear of change, it will likely boil down to one or a combination of the following: opinion, preference, level of comfort, perceived need for control or feelings.  In any case, to make this as simple to understand as possible, whether we want to admit it or not, it is mostly about you.  You know how it goes. After all, it is your opinion, your preference, your level of comfort, your perceived need for control or your feelings. If this applies to your house and you live alone, it likely doesn’t matter. But, if this fear of change applies to a work, school or a church situation, it may become a critical issue because it may turn out to be a roadblock to progress. For instance, I was in a church years ago where a few of the members were angry about a proposal to replace the aging pews. After a lot of discussion, it was revealed that they didn’t want to replace the pews because they gave money years ago to purchase the pews and the pews brought back so many fond memories.  In fact, the pews were so important to a few they refused to weigh the matter against why the proposal was made. What motivated the proposal? A new design and configuration to the worship center were proposed to make more room in the overcrowded worship center.

These are hard lessons to learn and I can remember how I’ve struggled on occasion with my opinions, preferences, level of comfort, perceived need for control and feelings.  In fact, there have been times when I screamed, “don’t move my chalkboard.” And then I learned a process to work through any given situation to seek wisdom, truth and analyze the priority of the matter. The process is summed up in two acronyms. The acronyms are JOY and PRC. Joy stands for Jesus, others and you in that order. When I consider Matthew 22:36-40 which commands us to love God first and foremost and to love our neighbor as yourself along with Philippians 2:3-4 which exhorts us to consider others as more significant than yourselves, this acronym helps me to keep Jesus in the forefront of my mind and priorities, respect others, maintain a reasonable spirit-filled perspective and to regulate my emotions. Notice I said it helps me. I didn’t say it fixed all my bad habits. I know what you’re thinking. Now once the JOY kicks in, then I can move to PRC. That stands for prayer, research and consultation. I found that when I pray (faithful and devoted to prayer — Romans 12:12, 1 Thes 5:17, Acts 2:42) about any given situation, research what the Bible says (all scripture is God-breathed – 2 Timothy 3:16-17), along with consulting with people who have experience in the area and what may have been published about the topic  (listen to counsel – Proverbs 19:20; plans fail without counsel – Proverbs 15:22), I learned that I can build on JOY with a grounded understanding that comes from PRC.

What about you? Have you resisted change even if the change was the removal of your chalkboard? I think all of us have had a moment like that. However, instead of trying to hide the sentimental value of an object, method or routine and get mad when someone wants to make changes or remove it altogether, I challenge you to practice JOY with PRC.  I know from experience that it will help you put Jesus first, listen and respect others, do the necessary research and examine the facts, spend time in prayer and maintain unity with others. With that said, how do you approach important, even trivial, decisions at school, work or church?

A Work in Progress,

Pastor Gene