By Cyndi Alte
Scientists are studying the behavior of bees to determine if there are any parallels between the habits of bees and the habits of people. One particular experiment intrigues me.
After identifying an active hive, scientists placed a bowl of sugar water 50 feet from the hive. Within a few hours, the bees were busy drawing nourishment from the sugar water. The next day scientists repeated the process, this time putting the sugar water 100 feet from the hive. The same result was observed as the bees spent time around the sugar water. The following day the bowl was placed 150 from the hive. The bees traveled the 150 feet. This pattern continued until the bowl was placed 300 feet away. The bees followed it each day. On the last day, the scientists arrived, ready to move the bowl to 350 feet. To their amazement, the bees were swarming at the 350 foot mark, waiting to be fed at the new nourishment site.
While the verdict is still out about whether or not there are parallels between the behavior of bees and the habits of humans, this study reminds us that a change in behavior takes time before it becomes second nature.
Perhaps you are in the midst of the process human behaviorists call "the cycle of change." It may be related to a decision you made at the beginning of the year to engage in more devotional time, lose weight, spend more time with the family, etc. A month into it and where are you?
Most human behaviorists identify seven stages within the cycle of change. This amalgamation of change cycles may help in gaining understanding of where you have been, where you are and where you may be headed.
Pre-contemplation - In this stage, there is no personally convincing evidence for a change to take place.
Contemplation - While the need for change is evident, there is ambivalence at this stage about whether or not a person wants to make a change.
Preparation - Information is gathered and assimilation of what the change may mean occurs.
The Danger Zone - This is the pivotal place where a choice is made to move forward to act on the change, discovering the new opportunities available or to not make a change, returning to old habits.
Action - Action, what is most often thought of when considering lifestyle change, is seldom successful without the previous stages.
Lapse/Relapse - A return to old habits and behaviors is intrinsic to the cycle of change and should not be regarded as a failure; instead, the goal at this stage is to not let the lapse or relapse become permanent.
Integration - The change has been integrated by learning and practicing that change is possible.
This is what behavioral scientists have to say about change. More importantly, what does this say to you about being in the midst of change (and we are all in the midst of change)?
Maybe it says that you are progressing along just fine. Maybe it says that you are stuck. Maybe it says you are relapsing and coming back. Whatever it is saying to you, I hope you are hearing two things: change is inevitable and change is hard.
In personal life, in church life and in conference life, we are all changing. While this may make for some stressful and difficult times, it is also an opportunity for us to grow into people who rehearse the reign of God.
An African proverb reminds us that "Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors." There may be rough seas ahead as we navigate the changes around us - and if we do not enter those seas, how will God make a new thing in and of us?
I am still thinking about bees and hoping that behaviorists are finding parallels between their habits and ours. I am hoping that we will be the kind of people who so desire to see God's new vision that we will be found waiting for the future, ready for the nourishment God has for us.
Cyndi Alte serves on the pastoral care team of Clarian Health at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. She is a clergy member of the South Indiana Conference.