"I wish things were still the same," I heard Jim say.
Circumstances in his life were less than satisfactory. "If I had stayed in my older neighborhood, I'd be happy," he moaned. "I never should have left."
I sat shaking my head with disbelief at Jim's disillusionment -- for I knew better. A few years ago, I drove back through the countryside where I was reared. The farmhouse I once lived in had been moved up the road. Of course, all the neighbors were gone. A new highway stretched across "unfamiliar" land we once owned.
I could scarcely find my way back to the original location where we had turned off the main road. Everyone wonders what it would be like, revisiting the past armed with his present knowledge and experience. However, life can never remain the same.
Clinging to what used to be only results in melancholy. Regretful thinking causes depression, yet people continue to yearn for yesteryear.
Instead, we should constantly stretch and discern. To find genuine security in the midst of life's changes, one must adjust his attitude toward differences and adapt to the excitement of what's coming next.
Similarly, our journey toward God consists of constant conversion and change. We never completely "arrive" until death.
Ask what God has in store. Whatever it is must be a gift.
I'm excited and exhilarated when I can wake each morning anticipating what God, surely, has waiting for me. We can depend on the events of the present to bring joy because God promised to be with his people always, when he said, "I will never leave you or forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5).
When I look around with opened eyes I observe fresh surroundings. I'm amazed how often I fret and worry, only to later find God has placed a person or thing in my life to solve my dilemma. Then living becomes an awesome game.
When I meet someone new or speak with another in passing, I ask what I need to learn from him or what I can teach. Then it's unnecessary to yearn for a by-gone existence, reattain a former goal or covet what was.
For the past has served its purpose in my life, that season is finished. I now anticipate what's right around the corner waiting to jump out and energize me. Whatever it is, I know it's from God and I need not fear.
I still talk with Jim, who continues to believe returning to his past environment will be the same. I say little, but secretly feel he's in for major disappointments. The old neighborhood's already changed for the worse. I'm saddened as I watch him express joyful anticipation, believing he's left all his problems behind. I wish him the best as I strive to avoid discouraging him.
Change occurs in every part of our lives -- it may seem to be the only constant. But change doesn't have to be a negative experience. Consider Jesus Christ.
The most horrific change of all brought the greatest good. His death and resurrection guaranteed new life for humankind.
Rather than viewing the chances and changes of life regretfully, recognize them as opportunities or innovative visions and new lives -- merely different than what we expected.
For sure, we can never step in the same river twice expecting it to be the same, for the current keeps moving along, dropping off the old and picking up the new.
Life's like that. I ask myself and you, how do you regard the unfamiliar? Do you relish the novel or cling to the old? Everyone has a choice to perceive change as opportunity or chaos -- and embrace or fear what's inevitable.
Ellen Shuck is director of religious education at St. Mary's Cathedral Parish.