Isn’t life interesting? We build a comfortable “personal space” around ourselves. It is almost like our own mini world-within-a-world that we carry as an invisible shell. This protective shell is the sum of all our experiences, knowledge, hopes and fears. It shapes how we see the world. It defines ‘life as we know it’, and becomes our truth. We like to believe we now have all the truth we ever need to be happy and do not need anything else to come along and disrupt things. We have the best intention to live “happily ever after”. But, then the forces of nature and the grand design of the universe has a way of puncturing our small world. Invariably this happens just as soon as we get comfortable. It often feels we are constantly in the process of “mending holes” in our shell, and making space for new knowledge and truths to come in. We call this process Change. The poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow likened the discomfort of Change to the seasons.
“Into every life a little rain must fall”
Human beings alternately desire and fear change. It has the power to save or damn, to bless or curse, to mend or destroy, to improve or decay. In fact, Change lives up to it’s name: it is a chameleon. It offers both joy and pain each time it arrives, depending on where you are standing. We all know the trite saying “when life brings you lemons, make lemonade”. But could this be a truth? Can we actually benefit from what initially appears to be a disaster? Consider the rain that Longfellow mentioned. When it starts to fall, it will spoil the backyard party, but saves a farmer’s crops. It makes our shoes muddy, but our lawns green. It places the worm in mortal peril, but the bird gets a good dinner!
There are many philosophies about change, and how to handle it when it walks into our world and makes itself at home. It usually comes as an unexpected, uninvited and unwanted guest. But along with the discomfort it also presents new opportunities. This is a hard concept for any of us when we are experiencing something that is ending our world as we know it. The opportunities, or blessings of the event may not be seen for years. Sometimes, the full picture eludes us all our life. Most of our unexpected changes are just annoying daily occurrences. A detour in the road, an appliance on the blink, bad weather, a bounced check, or the traffic jam that delays our arrival time. But other changes come along that are truly heart wrenching and more difficult to reconcile; unemployment, divorce, poverty, illness and death, just to name a few.
We have all worked very hard to gain the knowledge, experience and truth we have today. Understandably, we hold tight to it and don’t want to lose any of it. When change comes along, it means we must relinquish our certainty. There is hope when we hear others who traveled an especially difficult path say they “gave up something good for something better”. But, we wonder, is this really possible?
This past year, my daughter was in the hospital for 9 weeks in a city hundreds of miles from home. I was taken in by the Ronald McDonald House near the hospital, and experienced many tender mercies. During that time, I discovered that I had joined a special ‘fraternity’ of sorts with the other parents and families undergoing tremendous life changes due to an illness, accident or birth defect of a child. Life as we knew it was forever lost. The uncertainty of the future was overwhelming. We all had our own unique story and grief to carry. And yet we were united in the common bond of suffering, and the effort of holding tight to the one thing left; Hope. Small victories were celebrations: A baby beginning to breathe without a respirator; a paralyzed son finding his voice again; a heart getting strong enough to remove the monitors; a successful surgical procedure; a wheelchair outing to the garden; and every single smile. Our lives were counted in moments and milestones instead of days. When my daughter eventually experienced the miracle of recovery, and we returned home, our hearts were filled with unspeakable joy. Our love for God and belief in His power was undeniable. As time passes we can see clearly that the blessings that have come from enduring this experience outweigh the sorrow and suffering. You would think that when someone experiences a large and dramatic trial of their faith such as this, that would be enough to sustain them for the rest of their lives. We fall victim to the “happily ever after” syndrome again. But the truth is that life’s victories must be won in the battle of daily living. The interesting phenomenon is how easily the miracles we receive fade once the intense pain of the moment is gone. Even with such dramatic witnesses to us of the Lord’s divine power, it is hard to maintain the intensity level of this Faith indefinitely. Our hardest test may be to remember the Lord when things get comfortable again. Perhaps this is why we continually undergo the changes that challenge us the most individually, so that we are reminded that our lives are not really our own. We live on borrowed time, and need continual divine help. We must learn to trust in the Lord and discern what He is trying to teach us in order to have true happiness.
I can honestly say that in looking back over my life thus far, and all the wondrous changes I have experienced, I have gained much more than I have lost. It stands to reason, that any of the changes I am currently experiencing or the future ones that come along, will also bring better things in their own time. Why this knowledge is so hard for me to keep a hold of is a frustrating mystery. It is so easy to forget, and to lose Faith. I suspect it was designed to be this way as a part of the human experience.
Today we celebrate the first day of the advent of Jesus Christ. He is our example in all things. His birth, life and death fulfilled God’s promise to each of us that our lives and suffering have a purpose.
The wisest among us learn to embrace change when it comes, trusting that it is part of a divine plan to bring us the most happiness. Longfellow had it right when he concluded;
“The best thing one can do when it is raining,
is to let it rain”