When our children were 10 and 6, we sat them down and told them our family was moving to Montgomery. They both immediately broke into tears. Meg said, “We can’t move. Everybody is expecting me at school.” Rob’s concerns were more basic. “Are we going to be able to eat there?”, he asked, apparently wondering if we were headed to some wild frontier. Their security was threatened and they were scared. Even Mary Ward and I were a bit uneasy with the move. Taking on a new church is risky business. But all of us look back on what resulted from our move and are so grateful.
When I was a freshman in college, my parents moved to New Orleans, from a normal kind of four-bedroom-house-in-the-suburbs-life, to the French Quarter of all places. Dad’s company had transferred him there and it felt like my home had disappeared. I was embarking on my own life adventure but I assumed my home base would always be there for me. A few years later, my father left his job and started a new venture of his own. I remember wondering if he had lost his mind. Their finances took a hit and Mom went to work for the first time in my life. My parents were in their early fifties and were basically starting over.
At that time in my life, I was all about risk and adventure. Stepping out into the unknown was quite exciting. All the possibilities lay ahead and that represented hope and fulfillment to me. But I was stunned at my parents’ decision. Risk and adventure, I thought, was for people in their twenties not their fifties. In my mind, things were supposed to calm down and be steady after one reached a certain age.
I’ve gone through a lot of changes in life, as we all have. There may have been more change in my life after the age of fifty than before. Or maybe I’ve just continued to be surprised that changes keep on coming. Isn’t life supposed to calm down and stay the same at some point?
My expectations may be for life to calm down eventually but my experience is the opposite. Changes continue. Some of them I have yearned for and prayed for and now am getting to live into. Many more of the changes have been thrust upon me. When I have most wanted life to be steady, whatever rug I have been standing on has been jerked out from underneath me and I have been sent reeling.
Every change life has given me has ended up for the best. I, and others in my life, have made mistakes and even those have turned out okay. Life has repeatedly pulled the rug out from underneath me, and the upheaval has led to growth and deeper faith in my life and the lives of the people I care about.
Jesus brought a lot of change into the world. Folks resisted that and wanted things to continue the way they had grown used to. Jesus was a pretty wise rug-puller-outer. And we know Jesus didn’t do that just to watch people suffer. Jesus pulls rugs out from underneath our feet for a purpose, to reveal a greater security in life than that which we have come to grab onto.
Our earthly journey is full of letting go of things that represent security to us but which have no ultimate value. We are called to love in life but sometimes, instead of loving, we cling. The risen Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene and the first thing he says to her is, “Do not cling to me.” Mary wants things to go back to the way they were. But Jesus is to ascend so that even better things can come about.
Life is temporary. And that is good. It’s scary. It’s threatening. We keep expecting it to calm down. But life is temporary. It’s a work in progress. Tomorrow is going to be different than today. Through the risky adventure, we come to see what is eternal –the great love God has for us and all creation.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.