Change is a funny thing.
We often seem to find ourselves avoiding change at all costs – it’s a part of the human condition. Often change doesn’t begin until the pain of staying where we are becomes greater than the pain of change.
This week I had two very interesting experiences. I watched 12 Years a Slave and I had my wisdom teeth removed. 12 Years a Slave was an amazing movie, poignant, moving and at times very difficult to watch. As for my teeth, I’ve been putting off getting my wisdom teeth removed for 18 months, and I finally began to feel a slowly growing ache. Thankfully the dentist had an opening, and I was in the chair within 24 hours.
Now you might think the only things which ties these two experiences together is that both experiences had moments when it felt like pulling teeth, but allow me to elaborate. I put off my trip to the dentist because of fear – I’d never had any work done previously on my teeth, and I didn’t know what the experience would be like. It wasn’t until I began to feel considerable discomfort that I made a move and took the leap – and now I no longer have those pesky wisdom teeth that were starting to cause me so many issues. In being forced to confront my situation, I made the change.
12 Years a Slave moved me deeply as I watched the story of a man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in the 1800’s. One aspect of the movie that I found particularly challenging was the manner in which the lead character was kidnapped. It struck me, as I sat there watching this man trust two individuals who would go on to betray him, how similar this story is to many that I heard first hand only weeks ago during my time in Myanmar. I heard from a lady who had gone to a village with a local priest and ended up working as a teacher with no pay for many years. I heard young brothers tell of how a man had promised them job in the hotel industry, but forced them to join the army instead. These stories were from people as real as you or I, who, just like Solomon Northup in 12 Years a Slave, survived Human Trafficking. The facts are that more than 21 million people suffer under modern day slavery and exploitation today. Exploitation exists in gathering raw materials for smartphones, in the seafood industry and in the sex trade. Slavery and exploitation are still so real to many people today.
With that in mind, I want to appeal to all of us – especially those who follow Jesus, who declared release for the captives, and freedom for the oppressed – how long will it be until change happens in industries that either endorse of turn a blind eye to exploitation in their supply chains? How long until the suffering of those being exploited is greater than the need for cheap food and goods? How long until turning a ignoring the exploitation in the sex trade is greater than the discomfort of confronting it?
How long until the pain of staying where we are becomes greater than the pain of change?