“Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes but when you look back everything is different.” — C.S. Lewis
The older you get, the more you expect life to change. It is inevitable. The calendar always wins. Clocks do not run backwards.
As Evie and I have moved into this new season in our lives called retirement, I have been pondering the process of moving from one season to another. My first major change occurred when I sensed Divine redirection to leave our family farm and go to college to prepare for the ministry. Until then, I was going to follow in my father’s footsteps as a dairy farmer. I was a member of the FFA (Future Farmers of America).
That decision did not come overnight. Nor did it come easily. Change can be intimidating. How easy it would have been to stay where life was comfortable. I loved those Holstein cows and Farmall tractors and the smell of silage. Going to college had never been a goal. But the good that came out of it was life-changing for me.
More than five decades have gone by since that decision and the years since have been filled with many changes. Each change brought a bundle of the same emotions and anxieties. How easy it would have been, if I allowed them, to prevent me from taking those new steps. Getting married. Beginning my first job as pastor. Having children. Going to graduate school. Becoming a professor, an academic dean and later a university president.
Throughout life we are always moving from one season to another. Here are four things I have learned about that process.
Change is Slow. C.S. Lewis said, “Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes but when you look back everything is different.” Someone said, “Days go slow; years go fast.” Sure, on a specific day we start a new job or get married or take our first class or become parents but the process leading up to those major life changes can take years. Rarely do our lives change overnight. Trees don’t grow overnight and neither do we.
Change is Necessary. We can’t stay young forever. We can’t stop the clock. Time moves on. We can’t be newlyweds forever. We can only be the new person on the job for so long. It would be naïve to spend too much time longing for a world that no longer exists. Memories of the past may feed our souls today but we can only return to that world in our memories.
Change is Challenging. Someone said, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. If you want to change, you have to be willing to be uncomfortable.” I remember the anxiety I felt as we drove from Lebanon, Pennsylvania, to Springfield, Missouri, to go to college. For me, it would have been so easy to turn around. I just came across a letter my mother wrote me years later in which she referenced that trip and how, as she drove home, she cried most of the way. Change is hard on us. Change can also be hard on those around us.
Change is Good. The birth of anything worthwhile will include pain. Most new mothers testify they hardly remember their labor as they hold that precious bundle from heaven. It has been said, “Don’t be afraid of change. You might lose something good, but you’ll gain something better.”
The question that sobers me the most about moving from one season to another is this one, “What if I had not made the decision to change?” Where would I be today if I had stayed on the farm or never married or went graduate school? What if we had stayed in Minnesota?
As Robin Skarma said, “Change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous in the end.”
Think about it.
Dr. Don Meyer is president emeritus of the University of Valley Forge, Phoenixville. Connect via firstname.lastname@example.org, Facebook.com/DrDonMeyer, www.DrDonMeyer.com, Twitter and Instagram: @DrDonMeyer.