Letting change change me

I wrote the essay below for the May 20, 2017 issue of The Drafting Desk, a monthly collaboration with my friend Lindsey. Click here to learn more!


It’s hot enough here in Central Florida that my kids have already been in their grandparents’ pool twice (though the water is still too cold for Mom).

In an effort to get a jump start on things this year, I went ahead and signed up my 3-year-old for refresher swim lessons. At 4pm every weekday for the last three weeks, I’ve sat next to the pool and observed as the skills came back to her—kicking, paddling, holding her breath, rolling onto her back to float—like riding a bike. She loves the water, and I love watching her and chatting with her swim instructor for those 10 minutes every afternoon.

But then, just like that, she was dubbed swim-ready and we were finished. On the last day, we said goodbye to the instructor and I choked back tears.

Tears. Over the end of swim lessons.

What is wrong with me?

We’re standing at the edge of a season when so many things wrap up—end-of-the-school-year concerts, dance recitals, class parties, thank-you notes, teacher gifts, goodbyes to friends and other parents and teachers I’ve come to adore. I dread all of it. It reminds me that my children are growing, moving up, moving on (and often that means I have to move on with them). At 8 and 3, at least they’re not moving out—but I know it’s only a matter of time before that happens, too.

Oh gosh. Hold on while I look for the Kleenex.

It would appear I don’t cope well with change—but then, I already knew that.

IMG_2612

I graduated high school in 1999 (just be kind and don’t do that math), and after so many years with my small class, many of whom I’d known since childhood, I was not ready to say goodbye. I fought the arrival of May by trying to ignore all of the regularly scheduled senior activities. Grad night at Disney? No thanks. Senior party? My mom made me go. Yearbook signing? I got six and a half (yes, a half) notes from friends in there before I stashed it in my backpack for good. I tried so hard to check out, as though not participating would somehow postpone the inevitable. I was 18 years old and too stubborn and prideful to admit my fear of what was on the horizon.

Staring me in the face was the great big unknown: an out-of-state college with an already-assigned roommate I’d never met, moving away from home for the first time, a course path I’d blindly chosen based on what my friends wanted to be when they grew up, and the future.

I sobbed through graduation, smiled for the pictures, then sulked afterward. I changed the station every time that Vitamin C song “Graduation (Friends Forever)” came on the radio because I didn’t want to cry anymore. (I’ve linked it here in case you’ve never heard it. Enjoy that ’90s goodness.) Later that summer, I withdrew my name from that college’s admission list, opting to stay home and go to a local university instead. Maybe if I didn’t leave, I could hold on to the status quo a little longer.

1999 me didn’t recognize what she’d done to herself, but now I see it clear as day: I’d let fear of change—fear of the unknown—leave me paralyzed. My life had been comfortable up to that point, and I just wanted everything to stay the same. 

But nothing ever does, does it?

IMG_2676.jpg

We tend to divide people into two camps: the change-inviters and the change-dreaders. But I’ve noticed that in various seasons of life I might fall hard into one category or the other. My change-inviting typically involves the spontaneous need to rearrange the living room furniture or paint the bathroom (again). Every once in a while I have the urge to quit a job or move somewhere far from what’s familiar with the dream of an adventure and a fresh start. The actual process is never as fun as I think it’s going to be—I easily forget that furniture is heavy and our space is limited, painting is a pain, and starting over somewhere new can be incredibly lonely.

My change-dreading tends to be rooted in emotional connections—to people, to stuff, to memories. I fight tears considering the fact that someday, my parents will probably sell my childhood home. I can’t think about my daughter finishing 3rd grade in a few days or her little sister’s first year of preschool being over already. Throw in the reminder that the approaching summer days are long and routine-less and unpredictable, and well, I think I need to go lie down now.

Of course, when I have perceived control of what’s changing, all is well. When change is out of my hands or just not on my preferred timeline, I dig my heels in and say, “Nope! Not ready! Not going!” At times, even the changes I’ve begged God for—bringing our first child into the world stands out as the most significant—have been the ones I wound up struggling through the most.

Are you a change-inviter or a change-dreader? Or a bit of both? 

When the unexpected sends me reeling, I have a choice to make: Do I allow my shifting world to unseat me as I grab at control? Or do I rest easy in the hands of my good God and explore what growth he might want to bring about in my heart?

Turns out those painful times of transition and upheaval are the perfect opportunity for God to change me. He stretches me, reveals exactly what I’m capable of, teaches me to depend fully on him, and reminds me the story was never mine to write in the first place. At the end of the process I find myself stronger, wiser, and more trusting of and in love with my faithful God than I was before.

Change is hard. But the hard stuff changes me for the better—once I stop fighting it.

So wouldn’t it be wiser for us to open our hands and release it all from the get-go? To believe the words Moses said to Joshua are true for us, too? “The Lord is the one who will go before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or abandon you. Do not be afraid or discouraged” (Deuteronomy 31:8).

Easier said than done? Yep. But we aren’t meant to hover comfortably in one place forever. Jesus’ charge, “Follow me,” requires forward motion (Matthew 16:24). No, not easy—but definitely worth it.

On that May day in 1999, I didn’t know that harder experiences than I could ever have anticipated were out there waiting for me in the future—but the best days of my life were out there, too. I’m a different person 18 years later because of those twists and turns, and I’m grateful God didn’t let me stay the same.

IMG_7178.jpg

As we look ahead to the unknown today, let’s pray for renewed faith and confidence that whatever God has in store, it will not be without purpose.

Lord, help us to step boldly into seasons of change, palms open, expectant and willing, even when we’re scared. May we cast fears aside, let go of what is behind us, and trust fully in You, believing wholeheartedly that You love us, have good plans for us, and want to change us from the inside out. 


Would you like new essays from Write the Rough Draft delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up here.

Advertisements

One thought on “Letting change change me

Share a thought

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s