Dragons, Part 4
We've talked a fair bit about dragons over the last few weeks. Today, let's talk about how to get rid of dragons.
Who rids us of dragons? Heroes!
Who doesn't rid us of dragons? Everyone else!
Who wants to volunteer to be a hero? No one!
No one in their right mind volunteers to be a hero. By definition, they risk their lives and have an incredibly difficult time. Sometimes they don't succeed or live long enough to enjoy a hero's welcome. And there's every chance in the world no one will thank the hero, but instead will punish them for their efforts.
This brings us to the three most significant issues with getting rid of dragons.
First, we have to want to get rid of the dragon.
Second, we have to go to the trouble of getting rid of the dragon.
Third, we have to learn to live without a dragon and not invite a new one in once the first one is gone.
The very thought of change is terrifying to most communities. Individuals are much better at change, and they're still not great at it. I have a friend who had a little business helping people stop smoking. His method was painless, incredibly effective, and there were no withdrawal symptoms whatsoever. He could practically guarantee he could help you quit smoking. All you had to do was agree to do it. My friend's business never got off the ground. Why? Because it required people to choose to change. Few do. And collectively? Virtually none.
I am aware of one major mainline denomination in the US that is planning on proactive structural change in the face of demographic, cultural, economic, and pandemic shifts. While these shifts are not dragons, the radical (as in "preserving the vital roots" as well as "extraordinary") changes being considered will most certainly uncover some dragons. I'm not diagnosing a case of dragons, but I'm aware that every institution or large and long-lived organization we have simply *must* have dragons. It's the nature of the beast, so to speak.
I bring up this denominational example because I am so amazed and thrilled. It is outstandingly rare to see an organization stand up and say, "change is happening to us, and we want to take control of that change by choosing it and guiding it, even if it will mean serious pain for us." This is heroic.
Choosing change and doing something about it is heroic.
Getting rid of the dragon is a true pain in the neck. We are at risk of avoiding the hard work through becoming stronger, perfecting our skills, doing research, and planning or attack until the cows come home. It requires wisdom and courage to know how long to do all these things and when to stop. It's tempting to avoid these altogether to avoid wasting time, but shooting from the hip can be suicidal and stupid. Let's avoid those too.
In addition to knowing when to prepare and for how long, we must look at secrecy. Obviously, we don't want to alert the dragon that we are coming for it. On the other hand, we don't want to fall into the fallacy of "the means justify the ends." Lies, secrets, behind-closed-door decisions, in-groups, good-old-boy networks, gaslighting, and even delusions are all things that signify we already have a dragon and, if we don't, lay a lovely lair to house one the might pass by.
A hero can't shout from the rooftops but also can't be tainted with unethical behavior. What to do? I suggest taking a page from the military. Keep things on a need to know basis. This is a way of saying, "Yes, there is a plan. No, I can't tell you what it is." It's honest while not overly disclosing tactics. It implies, at least we hope, that the best people are on the job and you're not being excluded for nefarious reasons.
And when the preparation is as complete as is wise, there's all the bother of approaching the dragon without becoming BBQ, dispatching it without getting dispatched first, and making sure it - or something like it - can't return.
An excellent and widely-known example of dragon-fighting is the first Star Wars movie. The hero gets some pretty basic preparation, is fueled by his moxie and innate skill, and a significant amount of the film is the big fight scene at the end at the Death Star (AKA dragon's lair). The dragon gets away in the end (we have to have a sequel), and the fight nearly destroys the hero.
It's a lot of work to fight a dragon.
The energy and vision of youth are good to have. Thankfully, many of us have energy and vision even if our younger days are gone.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, we must learn to live without a dragon. You'd think this would be easy, but suffering becomes normal and life just doesn't seem "right" without it when we've never known anything else. Our theology can hold us back when we accept that life will improve after we die instead of trying valiantly to live into the "new life" now.
Sometimes we're just too broken from the damage done to us to be able to live without dragons. The best, most loving things we can do at that point is to:
recognize the problem and the solution, even if we don't like it,
do our best to avoid spreading our damage to others,
prepare those who come after us to be healthy and strong, and
keep holding onto the vision of the Promise(ed Land).
Sound familiar? It should.
It's uncomfortable to be peaceful, healthy, strong, and courageous in our community relationships.
We are called to hold on until it becomes easier. I promise it will. It just takes practice and healing through grace.
Are you ready to fight your dragon? It's okay if you're not. It's okay if you need to talk about it a little more.
Grow+Small Church Consulting is here to listen, to equip you for your quest, to assure you no one is ever prepared, and to cheer you when you return victorious.
Let's start your journey today. Right now.