There are only two certainties in life: Death and Taxes.
So goes the quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin. Not wanting to upstage him at all, though, I would like to add a third certainty: Change. Change is just as inevitable. The way we respond to change, however, is as unique as each of us.
My husband and I are going through one of those changes in life right now. As we move toward becoming "empty-nesters", the next generation of our family is arriving. Our niece had her first baby last October (so now I have graduated from being an ordinary, run-of-the-mill aunt to being a great-aunt!), and we became grandparents in January, with a second grandchild on the way in August. It is a new season in our lives, and one we are happy to see.
But what happens when we approach changes we are not so sure about? What happens when we are comfortable where we are, and we don't want things to change? How do we deal with changes we just don't want?
Sitting out on our deck recently, I noticed that a few leaves on the trees were starting to exchange their vibrant summer green for their autumn glory. It got me thinking: how do the leaves know it is getting time to change? The weather didn't seem any cooler or wetter. And what makes some leaves change earlier and others wait?
As I reflected on this, I realised that it was a good picture of how we humans can respond to the changing seasons of life.
Some people are ahead of the game. They can see change is coming, and they get ready straight away, embracing it with gusto. While others are still settling in after the previous shift, they are already looking ahead, already preparing for and getting excited about what is coming.
For others, they wait a little longer, wait until they are sure the change is coming. Like the leaves realising the temperature is dropping, the days are significantly shorter, we can wait until the previous season is definitely over before we are ready for the next. Sometimes we see the trend, also. We see the increasing numbers of others ready for change, and we join them, moving with them, not wanting to be left behind.
Then there are those who just want things to stay the way they are. We can be like those leaves that just hang on and hang on, all through winter, stubbornly refusing to let go of the tree even though they are well and truly past their prime, brown and dried up, but refusing to drop. We can be just as stubborn, holding on to the past when that season has well and truly finished and we should be well in to the next.
Jesus talked a bit about recognising seasons in some of His final messages, (see Luke 21, for example). In the middle of describing some of the signs of the times, He reminds us not to be afraid, (v.9), but to be alert, ready for what is next (v.34-6). The bridal party in Matthew 25 is another great example of our need to be prepared for what is imminent, to be looking ahead.
Dealing with change has been a real struggle for me at times. Either living in denial of my need to change, or having unrealistic beliefs about my ability to change things back to how they were kept me stuck at a number of points in my life, even contributing to depression at one point.
Over the journey of transformation that God has led me on, I have realised that burying my head or running away is counter productive. I have learnt that it is much less painful and far quicker to embrace change, to push past the struggle; to meet the difficulty head on in those times where change is not my choice. I have learnt that although change can be uncomfortable, if I allow myself to move and even be changed with it, the benefits generally far outweigh any discomfort.
Although we can get very comfortable in the season we are in, and wish we could stay there forever, just like the leaf on the branch, refusing to fall, we end up out of place and alone. The weather has changed around us, and we find it is no longer as comfortable as it once was. One way or another, we will get shifted on by what it coming next. It is up to us whether we jump or get pushed.
What changes are on the horizon for you? Are you ready to allow your true colours to come through as you launch off your branch into the next season?