There are moments in life when everything changes. We tend to forget that. We think that what we are experiencing now is “normal”, forgetting that our “normal” has changed time and time again throughout our lives.
Of course things are actually changing all the time, but because the changes are so small we tend to ignore them until we are confronted with a photo or some other reminder about how things were a few years ago.
Today, though, I am not so much thinking about those gradual changes, I am thinking about the life-altering moments that change “normal” in an instant.
I had one of those moments on Wednesday.
Maddi left home.
I tried to convince her that “normal” was better, that staying home forever would be the way to go, however she wasn’t buying what I was trying to sell.
My “normal” was too small for my beautiful daughter. It had been for a couple of years, and I knew that, but the knowing didn’t prepare me for the experience.
For 21 years all my children have lived under my roof. It is unlikely that will ever be the case again.
On Wednesday 30th November 2016 my life changed.
There are lots of other dates that changed my life:
- The day I left home
- The day I chose to get baptized
- The day I decided to stay in Hobart rather than go back to radio.
- The day I was married
- The days Maddi and then Josh, Daniel and Sophie were born
- The day we (the mob I worked with) purchased a town in Tasmania
- The days people I love died (Bob Adams, Pa and Mema, Grandma Burton, Matt, Adrian)
- The day it became clear my Dad would need to step down from leadership in Fusion
- The days we moved to Poatina, Mornington, Poatina (again) and Canada.
- The day I became a Pastor
Each one of these days was a watershed moment, a moment of dis-continuity, a moment that resulted in permanent change in my life.
There are other days that we all experience that also result in permanent change. These are less common but are seismic in their implications. September 11 was a moment like that. I have a feeling that Donald Trump’s election may also be one of those kind of days but the jury is still out.
Maddi’s departure has had me thinking about these moments that change everything. As I lay on my bed, listening to old U2 albums and processing the fact my daughter was on an airplane taking her away from me, I became acutely aware that there is a big part of me that doesn’t like change.
I am reminded of a poem that Bob Adams introduced me to about the journey of faith. In the poem the narrator contrasts the moments he (or she) was in charge, and the moment they handed control to Jesus:
When I had control, I know the way. It was rather boring, but predicable…….It was the shortest distance between two points.
But when he took the lead, He knew delightful long cuts, up mountains, and through rocky places at breakneck speeds, it was all I could do to hang on!
Like the poem indicates, my experience is that God seems to introduce change into my life. The more I follow him, the more I find my life contains moments of dis-continuity.
I also find that the battle between the part of me that wants to maintain the status quo and the part of me that is willing to embrace change is not getting any easier. There is a lie that I find myself believing that drastic change shouldn’t happen. There is a part of me that like equilibrium. Someone once pointed out though, that the first time in your life when you will truly be at equilibrium is when you are dead.
Life necessitates change.
“I consider it a dangerous misconception of mental hygiene to assume that what man needs in the first place is equilibrium, a tensionless state! What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him.”
It is interesting the number of times the Psalms encourage us to “sing a new song.” The image is used in Psalm 33, 40, 96, 98, 144 and 149. The same image is also used in Isaiah 42 and Revelation 5 and 14. The imagery of the song is always more than just a tune, the “new song” represents a new attitude and approach to life.
The Prophet Isaiah wrote the words of God to the people of Israel:
18 “Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV)
Isaiah was, of course, talking about he ultimate moment of dis-continuity: the baby to be born in Bethlehem who would introduce a wholly different way of being human. I think though, that God wants me to hear these words as an encouragement to move forward and not be tied to the “former things.”
Isaiah talks about the “new thing” resulting in new life (
streams in the wasteland). That has certainly ben true for me. Each one of the moments of discontinuity, both the joyful and the horrible, have produced new life in me. I am a much bigger and more whole person because of these moments.
I would’t put Maddi leaving in the category of a joyful moment. I think I am still grieving that a chapter of my life is over. I do know though, that both for her, and for the rest of the family, we will look back on another moment of transition that ultimately produced life.