It’s 2:37 a.m. on January 1, 2015, and despite my best intentions to think of New Year’s Resolutions the only thing running through my mind is: Next year, I’ll be celebrating New Year’s Eve in Thailand.
I’ve had a lot of those recently. When I turn 25, I’ll be in Thailand. My next Thanksgiving will be in Thailand. I’ll be in Thailand on my nephews’ next birthday. Next Christmas…I’ll be in Thailand.
If you want to feel pain in its most uninterrupted form, change something. Doesn’t matter if it’s good, bad, or neutral, change it and I guarantee you will feel some level of discomfort, irritation, struggle, and yes, pain. Before you throw darts at me for telling you how hard it’s going to be to keep your resolutions (aka commitments to change), let me be the first to admit that no matter how bad you are at change, I’m worse.
Approximately 95% of my life’s energy is spent avoiding change. My entire senior year of college I ate oatmeal for breakfast, not because I particularly liked it, but because it was easier than coming up with something new every day. I had long hair for so many years that when I asked for a shoulder-length bob, my hairdresser inquired after my emotional stability. And the day after I got my tattoo, I cried, not for reasons that normal people cry after getting tattoos like “I hate it” or “I made a mistake” but because “my foot looks different.”
Yeah. It’s bad.
The good news is my choice of oatmeal toppings has yet to affect world politics; what concerns me is the reason I still have a hard time reaching for the egg carton. Because as much as I hate to admit it, I’m afraid of change – either the process itself or the result of it – and I don’t think I’m the only one.
Have you ever noticed how much we love routine? I think sometimes we dread changing our patterns because we’re afraid if we did, our world would fall to shambles (I used to wear the green apron; I know how you guys feel about your Starbucks drinks). Or how about the fact that we tend to limit our social circles to people who look or act like we do. Sometimes I wonder if we do that because if we hung around people who were different than us, we would have to change our thoughts about their significance in the world (and our own). That could get really uncomfortable.
Deep down, I don’t think any of us really enjoys change, which leads me to question: why on earth do we have a holiday that celebrates and even pressures us to change? (And why am I still awake on said holiday?)
Maybe it has something to do with the fact that when things don’t change, they die. The Dead Sea earned its infamous name because it doesn’t change. There’s a river flowing into it but not out of it, so any water the sea collects gets trapped until it eventually evaporates, creating an extremely salty environment that can’t support life. When a relationship becomes stagnant – nothing more than a daily repetition of “this is how we’ve always done things” – its death is not long to follow. And (the big one on my mind right now) if I decided to stay where it’s comfortable instead of move to Thailand, I wouldn’t necessarily die, but a big part of my heart might. The part that longs to be brave and obedient and everything God created me to be.
There’s a section of Isaiah 66 that helps me understand this idea more, the part where God is preparing his people for some painful changes coming their way. In the middle of describing their future suffering, he gives this promise: “Do I bring to the moment of birth and not give delivery?” Another (less awkward) version says it like this: “I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born.” Yes, God calls us to change, and often it is horrible and painful, but he does it because he knows what will follow is life. In Israel’s case, he knew what would follow is a relationship with the One who loved them the most. And in mine?
Next New Year’s Eve, next Thanksgiving, the next time my nephews blow the candles out on their cake and the next time they open presents under a Christmas tree, I will be feeling the pain that accompanies change. And believe me, I will be feeling it very, very deeply. But I also think I will be feeling peace and an unshakable sense of joy. Because if I let them, the changes I experience this year are going to make me a different person, and if I trust God to keep his promise, they’re going to make me more like the person I long to be – someone whose heart is more aligned with and filled by her Creator than ever before.
2015, you never looked so good. Who knows; I might even make eggs tomorrow.