By Amber Kinloch
It would be nice if I could hit a “Pause” button on life right now. I’m in such a pleasant situation, and have been for many months. Oh sure, I have my struggles, but they seem small compared to past ones. Meantime, blessings press in upon me from every side—cherished family and friends in superabundance, work I enjoy, good health, etc. Yes, please, let me stop here. Life is good.
But Change is Inevitable
I don’t know when it will come or in what way or form. Perhaps it will be something challenging like the death of my grandma. I know she can’t live forever. Or perhaps some unforeseen health or financial crisis will strike my family.
Maybe it will be a joyful change like courtship and marriage. Yet even here I’m reluctant. Friends of mine who have dated inform me that it isn’t all roses. Besides, I love my current family situation, living at home with my parents and one of my brothers. We have such a good time together. Dating and the prospect of marriage would disturb what we have. No, I like the status quo. I like that my heart is calm and free.
But this can’t last. Time is marching onwards. It slips away before I can ever grasp hold of it. The only way I can avoid wasting it is to embrace what is and live. So I do.
The Present Moment
This is all I have. This is all that’s truly real.
The past is done with and I’m mostly glad about that. I wouldn’t want to relive the greater portion of my life, not when I think of the struggles I’ve undergone or the person I used to be.
As to the future, who’s to say I’ll be here to see it? For all I know, I’ll die in a car accident tomorrow.
That sounds morbid, but actually, it’s strangely reassuring to contemplate. Reflecting on this truth frees me from all those useless burdens I’m inclined to lug about. I look and go, “Is it really a big deal if I never get around to writing that one short story? Will the world really end?” (No.)
On the other hand, I’m led to focus on what’s really important—attending to my primary duties, getting to Confession regularly, making the effort to love even when it’s difficult. In a word, doing God’s Will to the best extent possible. Everything else is rubbish.
As to Fearing Change…
The problem with change is that change is code for “loss.” I mentioned marriage and death as two examples, but we even get it with something as basic as the seasons.
Right now, I’m soaking in the colorful collage of fall. In a few short weeks, though, it will be gone. I’ll miss the autumnal beauty despite knowing that it will return next year.
Yet this very changing of the seasons is what makes each one special. I love snow and frost and gazing up at the constellation Orion in the winter sky. Hyacinths—my favorite flower—are a special delight around the feast day of St. Joseph. Summer is an annual summons to slow down, rest, and recharge.
The point: With every loss comes a fresh bouquet of graces. Each ending brings a new beginning—it’s up to us to embrace it as such.
How? By being attentive and grateful. We must not let grief cloud our sight and blind us to the gift before us. Different isn’t necessarily bad, it’s just “different,” like a new garment we’re not accustomed to wearing at first.
The Big Picture
Each change and the loss that accompanies it is an opportunity for growth and a reminder of death. You and I are not made for this world; our hearts will never be satisfied as long as we’re sojourners here. Change, then, is an opportunity to practice detachment. It’s a chance to break with something binding us to this earth. As St. John of the Cross observes:
“It makes little difference whether a bird is tied by a thin thread or by a cord. Even if it is tied by thread, the bird will be held bound just as surely as if it were tied by cord; that is, it will be impeded from flying as long as it does not break the thread” (Ascent of Mount Carmel, Book One, 11.4).
Detached from earthly things, we will be prepared for the ultimate change: death. Death is not an end for the Christian. It is the gateway to the eternal where hopefully, by the mercy of God, we will live forever with Him. United to Him Who is unchanging, we will at last find rest and an end to fear, loss, and change.
Amber writes from the bunker of her living room. There she hunkers down with her laptop and a blanket while keeping an eye and ear tuned in to the activity of family life. Music set on loop keeps her energy flowing as she muses on the deeper happenings of ordinary life and what food to restock the fridge with.