“I believe that faith is less like following a GPS through a precise grid of city blocks and more like being out at sea, a tricky journey, nonlinear and winding, the wind kicking up and then stalling.” (Shauna Niequist)
Our town had a snow day this past week and I didn’t even know it until I saw it on Facebook in our town’s moms’ group site. Oh my goodness. The thought roared into my brain, “You are not one of those moms anymore.” I remember having the same feeling this past fall when I realized I would have no more school year in my life. I didn’t even know when the first day of school was until I saw pictures being posted by young moms with their adorable children in cute “first day of school” outfits. After 22 years of first days of school and snow days, I felt clueless. Huge change. No more pics on the porch with Allen. No more “you have a snow day” surprise visits into bedrooms with sleepy “awesome” replies. Huge change.
These past few years have brought change after change for our family. Each child slowly left the nest for college. Allen took a new job commuting to Pittsburgh three days a week. I started this blog which has brought a host of new and old friends into my life. Grandchild #1 was born. Close friends experienced horrific tragedies and loss and I didn’t avoid them (huge change for me). And just this past Wednesday night, Allen and I slept with no one else in the house for the first time in 26 years (that doesn’t count the 5 nights all four kids were at camp one summer…best week of my mom life). There are many days, where I can’t get my bearing and feel tossed around by the “sea of life.”
As a young child of missionary parents, I embraced change. I moved 21 times in my first 19 years. I got a kick out of it all. I constantly adjusted and readjusted to new normals and enjoyed it as much as I can remember. Change kept happening, as it does throughout our lives no matter how much we try to stop it, and it took its toll on me. Horrible anxiety came over me one summer with such a force that I couldn’t even leave my house. At that point, I believed with all my might that change was the villain and I was the victim. Uncertainty was the culprit and I was the casualty.
Those beliefs are just not true or helpful. They shout loudly that the external things in life have control over my internal world. I feel powerless and without hope. No wonder anxiety comes right along side. Thankfully, I’ve been slowly discovering a few new and very helpful ways to approach the changes that are sure to come (after all, I am only 51…oh, that kind of rhymes).
- Embrace change itself. Shauna Niequist reminds me, “If you dig in and fight the change you’re facing, it will indeed smash you to bits.” Think of the example of a wave. If you stand in the sand with knees locked as a wave comes in, you will be knocked over, tumbled through the rough sand and probably get pretty banged up. But if you entrust yourself to the water just a little further out, you will be gently carried above those seemingly scary waves. My hope is to embrace change. Wait for the next step. Stop “locking my knees” and bracing for impact. Choose the long-view of my story. “Ride the waves.” I find it much easier to live there.
- Embrace BOTH the darkness and the light. I don’t want to lose touch with the heart of the story, the part where life comes from death (but not skip over the death part). I spent many years just trying to “go up and to the right” and avoid all the bad stuff. This past year, I have plunged headlong into grief, murder, anxiety, all the more shadowy sides of life. I am going deep there. People are really hurting. It’s hard. But there is always a glimmer of hope. It’s not all bad. Redemption comes. Again, I don’t want to skip the death part, the darkness part. I want to sit still where it’s not okay NOW (where darkness reigns) but still have hope it WILL be okay in the future (where the light shines brightly). This is huge for me. It’s been such a tremendous gift.
- Embrace uncertainty. Making peace with uncertainty is the hardest of all for me. I have learned that certainty is not part of life. The more I demand it, the more it eludes me. Much of my life is driven by this force of demanding certainty. “If this, then this.” Formulas. They just don’t work. Because I bring my kids to church and read them stories from the Bible doesn’t mean they will embrace the deep love of God for them. Because I exercise and eat right doesn’t mean I won’t get cancer. Because I do all the right things (whatever that even means), doesn’t mean bad things won’t happen. Certainty. The insatiable hunger for it that I believed was my friend is actually my enemy. Desire for certainty enslaves me. Making peace with uncertainty frees me.
In the end of the day, change is one of God’s greatest gifts and most useful tools. Change is one of the things that redeems me, brings me into greater freedom. As Shauna reminds me once again, “It’s not a function of life’s cruelty but of God’s graciousness.” God longs for me to have freedom from all that would hold me captive. This hope of freedom helps me to embrace change the way I truly long to (even just a little bit at a time).
I don’t fear change the way I used to. I’m up for the next round (and to be honest, a little fear crept in as I wrote that). When I do think of all those changes I mentioned above, I get excited. I have less constrictions on my time and energy. God keeps bringing those who need me and who I need. We are going deep together. This blog is opening those doors. I love and long for relationship. I love and long for wholeness and healing. I love and long for impact. That core of who I am actually has not changed even though the world around me has and will continue to. I am preserved through all of it. The outside, external world does not have control over my truest self. I am not without hope. Change is NOT the villain and I am NOT the victim. Uncertainty is NOT the culprit and I am NOT the casualty. I am not losing myself, but marching forward on this journey of finding myself with the gracious, kind and loving help of God and others. It’s really worth it.