Change. She is unpredictable, sometimes coming in like a tornado, or one of those hippie sort of people that just glides in and suddenly the room feels different. But then sometimes she is subtle, whispering ideas and gently lighting candles, illuminating the way forward. She is unpredictable, and sometimes shows up uninvited. But she can be invited, and she will always come when you ask. She typically doesn’t knock, she knows where you keep your spare key under the flower pot and doesn’t hesitate to come right in no matter the time of day. She is loud but sometimes whispers, she comes with the seasons but also travels unexpectedly. “Why” isn’t a question that she will answer for you, and she might not really give you any time to process it. She likes to get moving and get on with it. I think she has our best in mind, but if I’m honest, sometimes in the moment it is hard to tell. She is an invitation, always.
Working in education, this past year was…challenging, to say the least. My department was asked to take on a lot of the additional work created by the reality of COVID. I learned through our awful fall semester that I do not adjust well to change. In reflection, I have done fine with change that I choose—like marriage, or college—but change that was not my choice? No thanks.
Turns out I can be pretty stubborn when I choose to be (and, apparently, that is kind of often). All these changes were happening and I didn’t like them; all this additional work was being asked of me and I had a terrible attitude about it.
In retrospect, I have described it as trying to stop a moving train by pulling on the back of it and digging in my heels. Anyone looking at that would see it is a hopeless cause. At some point, after months of exhausting myself, I let go and begrudgingly hopped on the train. But how much stress and exhaustion could I have saved myself by just getting on the train in the first place? One of the things that made it all so difficult was my attitude itself. Carrying that around made me even heavier. And granted, yes, we can all extend ourselves some grace; we were operating within the midst of a worldwide crisis after all. But I am trying to learn from it and not set myself up for the same kind of frustration again, and I think there are some helpful questions to reflect on as we move forward.
What are things I can’t change/keep from changing? Would it be better to just get on the train?
How can I shift my attitude about those circumstances?
We had a “thank you” luncheon last week where all of us who were tasked with extra COVID work gathered, and we were so appreciated for our selfless work and great attitudes and “serving with joy.” I was convicted; I would not say I served with joy within those circumstances. I was just being dragged along by a steam engine, wearing myself out in my effort to avoid the inevitable.
It feels important to evaluate our relationship to change, especially since, you know, we live in a world that is always changing. For better or for worse, nothing stays the same. I’m learning that resistance to change doesn’t keep change from happening, it just wears us out and keeps us from getting on with the inevitable sooner.
The danger in just always getting on the train is that there is bad change, or wrong change. Maybe something just isn’t right for you, and it actually wouldn’t be helpful to “get on the train.” Maybe change is the thing that helps you make a big decision, like quitting your job, moving, or breaking up with someone. Change can direct us in a totally different direction than we were originally walking; maybe sometimes she saves us from ourselves.
Change is one thing, always. She is always an invitation. It might not be one that you want, but it is an offer into a new season, an opportunity to trust, a chance to say goodbye to things that weren’t great for you, or whose time just needs to be over. It isn’t usually as romantic as that sounds, I’ll admit. But if we would accept the invitation and step into the dance with change, it most likely would be more enjoyable than letting her drag us along.
Maybe some of these questions could help you too, as you think about the impact of change in your life:
What is your relationship to change? How do you react to it?
What might you be digging your heels in, resisting?
Would it help to get on the train, or to walk away?