We have no idea what the future will be, not even what the next minute after this one will bring. We are constantly surprised or appalled or frightened or delighted by what is in the next moment. Just this morning as I was preparing to drive my grandchildren to and from school—four trips today, a text from my daughter came that said that our county was suspending in-school for students until February 2nd, so no driving was needed. I have been doing most of the driving since my daughter had surgery in new year. The next day school was on for half her children! To you, these might not seem to be an earth- shattering change, but, to me, my work had been on hold for the last three or four weeks, so suddenly I had to adapt again.
How often in our lives does an unexpected event change our days. There are the big events like wars or 9/11 or a tsunami or an earthquake or Covid-19 that may have been predicted or not, but so often it’s a job change or a parting of ways that was unexpected or a death in the family or illness—the possibilities are endless. Those are big changes, but then there are the minor ones like the scheduling changes in two days. We Americans like to think that we can control our lives, but do we really?
Today’s change wasn’t earth-shattering, but it still will take quite a bit of adaptation for me. There have been so many changes in my life that I didn’t expect; here are a few big ones:
1-as I started my freshman year in college, my father was transferred to Northern Ireland where the duPont Company was building its first overseas plant. That meant that I spent vacations in Northern Ireland. A total surprise.
2-I married a man who was a student at Stanford University, so I moved to the Bay Area of California to start our lives together. A delight.
3-All I wanted to be as a grownup was a mother, but it took 10 years for me to conceive. A difficult time for me and then a celebration!
4-First, I had a daughter, then 4 years later twin sons! Challenging!
5-In 1998 I learned that lay people could train to be spiritual directors! Delight.
6-My husband died when I was 59. A tremendous loss.
7-Gradually a new life emerged for me. Seven years later I moved to North Carolina to be close to my daughter and her family. It was great to be in a place where religion mattered.
I had just started my blog. Here I was at retirement age starting a career in writing that continues to this day.
Those were just the big changes in my life. Fortunately, I gave my life to Christ 40 years ago, so He has been the key in my adapting to the changes, big and small along the way. I lean on Him even when I don’t know it. When my husband had lymphoma and it was cured and then months later it was back worse than ever, God met me in my hope of denying that this was happening to my husband and to me and provided me such support and faith that I never resented his death, although I grieved his loss. I was able to support him through this ordeal as well as our children and friends.
Whether changes create a tsunami for us or just a ripple in the waters, we are often unprepared for the changes that come. But we were created by God to be highly adaptable people, so that a change is not the end of our story. If we were only aware of His presence, we would also know that we are accompanied throughout our lives by the Holy Spirit, the Indwelling Spirit of God, who is there to help us respond to what is happening. He provides strength to endure, good ideas of how to respond to the changes, creative responses that help us to adapt. And each change brings new insight into who we were created to be and what we are to learn.
I think so often of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane praying to God to take this death on the cross away from Him, but gradually adapting to what He must go through, so that He ends with praying “Not my will, but thine.” [Luke 22:42] If He is our model, then we will say to Him, “not my will, but thine,” whether it is the death of a loved one or some minor glitch in our plans.
Our obedience is key to living our lives in truth and love and mercy. It is our resistance to what is already in our lives that creates so much more suffering. It is our adaptation to what is in our lives that eliminates that suffering. What is your attitude to change? Is it “I hate this and I won’t accept it!” or is it “Okay, Lord, I can adapt to this, too.
The one thing we do have control over is how we respond to all these changes. We can, as I did for years, insist on understanding why something was happening before I could consent to it. We can refuse to accept what is happening. We can only acknowledge bits and pieces of the change and reject the rest. Or we can accept what is already in our lives and see how best to cope with it. It is really up to each of us how we respond to any change. But the more we are able to embrace and work with any change, the less our suffering will be. If we assume that the Holy Spirit will walk us through the transition, accompany us, help us adapt to it, our lives will proceed with a lot less disruption than if we refuse to submit to the change.
Covid-19 is a prime example of the big changes that can come to us, that can even affect everyone in this world. The question is whether we will listen to the wisdom of the experts and adapt to the changes they recommend, or will we rebel and insist that we are right? Will we help stop the spread or not care if it spreads? Will we listen to the Holy Spirit and do what He suggests? It is our choice how we respond to the big and small changes in our lives. Will we be adaptable or resistant? Helpful to others or turning our backs on them? Isn’t it interesting that we determine how much we will suffer in each change?
Questions to ponder over the week: How do I respond to big and small changes in my life? With resistance or acquiescence? Am I leaning on the Holy Spirit to help me? or on myself alone? How could I change my response? What would I have to give up to do that?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who lean on Him in any change. listen for His wisdom and then do what He suggests. May we not mind the ripples of change in our lives, but welcome them to see what grace and blessings they bring.
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