I chose the word “new” as my word for this year. I was believing this year to be one of good, refreshing newness. I was thinking new like freshly cut grass. Or a brand new dress that looks fabulous. Or new restaurants and recipes to try, new places to travel and explore. I wanted the happy--and if I’m honest--easy, side of new.
This year has been full of new. But it’s been anything but easy.
Over the last three months, my life has been marked by change and transition. I ended my job on campus at UNC, and I started a new job at my church. (I thought this would be easy). I said goodbye to a friend and coworker who I was looking forward to building with. I moved. And a few months ago I said goodbye to one of my best friends, and last week, I said goodbye (perhaps just temporarily) to another.
If I’m honest, there have been times in the last months when I have whined, gotten cranky and asked God what the hell he is doing. Because I didn’t ask for this. I didn’t ask for different, I didn’t ask for change. I asked for new. (It’s ok to laugh; it’s ridiculous really). So there were times when I dug my heels in, clinched my fists and refused to move. Things were changing all around me, but I didn’t want them to.
I used to think that change was bad, that change was only hard and difficult. I used to think that change was how God tests us, and proves us. But I’ve realized this in these months...that change is one of God’s best tools for changing us. Change around us is how God works change in us. This realization doesn’t necessarily make the actual changes any easier. But when I choose to remember that change isn’t life being cruel, but instead how God chooses to graciously and lovingly mold and shape me, I can trust Him a little bit more in the process.
Over the last seven months, I’ve come back again and again to a particular chapter in a particular book. Learning to Swim, by Shauna Niequist. In it, she writes a beautiful metaphor, comparing fighting or floating with the ocean’s waves to the way we can respond to life’s transitions. You learn very quickly that you can either stand and get pummeled over and over by the coming waves, as hard as you may try to brace yourself against them. Or, you can choose to swim out a little bit farther, and learn to float with them.
So that’s what I’ve done. I’ve given up trying to stand up against the waves that keep coming, keep bringing change. I swam out a little further from shore. I can’t touch the bottom, and sometimes my legs feel tired from treading water, and my arms are weary from fighting the current. But I’m floating with the changes. And it’s much easier, and much sweeter.