Unexpected Change

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Simcha Fisher wrote a great piece recently, reflecting on how a diagnosis of diabetes in their family has changed the way she thinks about food – but not just food. The whole notion of how one way of thinking might be just fine in one particular set of circumstances, but not in another, made her question how freely she remains open to change in her spiritual life.

“There is one constant: We must know, love, and serve God. But the specifics are surprisingly subjective. What God wants from me, to keep my soul nourished, is not necessarily what He wants from you.”

“This is a familiar lesson. Maybe we’re comfortable with the idea that we are one body with many members, and that diverse vocations are a feature, not a bug. But are we aware that our own vocations may be good and useful and pleasing to God for a while — and then may abruptly change? That the thing that used to nourish me yesterday might suddenly become the last thing I need?”

Her words struck a chord with me. I found myself thinking similarly: I understand well that everyone’s path is unique, and so one friend’s journey toward the Good might look radically different than another friend’s.

But do I understand that one stretch on my journey might look radically different from another?

The more we get to know ourselves, the more comfortable we become in who we are. In most ways, this is a good thing: there’s no use trying to be anyone else.

But do we know that “who we are” can change quite a bit over time? That what nourishes us and gives us life may differ wildly according to which season of life we’re in?

This is a lesson I’ve been learning as I’ve moved homes, changed countries, and adjusted to new cultures and new jobs.

There are constants of course: time in prayer, time in the Church community, time alone for my soul to rest. But the shape of that prayer, the amount of time spent, the space my soul needs – all of that has shifted over time.

And here’s the kicker: I am learning not to be afraid of that change.

I used to worry about how in my teen years, I could stay up late praying all night at a retreat and wake up without too much difficulty, but now that I am older, I just fall asleep! Or how when I was in university I could volunteer for several different events at Church in the same week – but now more than one seems like just too much. I sometimes still worry that unless I have positive, measurable proof that I am doing more than I was last year, I’m somehow failing.

But the truth is that if we believe God is alive and active in our lives – and we believe that we are growing – then change is inevitable and even to be welcomed. And sometimes change doesn’t look like a measurable “more.” Sometimes change looks like a period of stillness, more rest, and more quiet. Sometimes it looks like the opposite of what used to work well for us.

And as long as I’ve got the basics down, that’s ok. Or at least – I’m learning to let it be ok.

Have you ever found yourself in a new season of the spiritual life when change was unexpected?