Yesterday, I attended a daylong professional development filled with team building activities and group planning time. At the beginning of the day, one of the facilitators shared a quote from motivational speaker Karen Kaiser Clark.
“Life is change. Growth is optional.”
The facilitator was referencing the quote in the context of education and the many changes that have taken place in our profession over the decades. However, I couldn’t help but consider how the quote applied to my own life.
Like most people, my life has been filled with changes. The first major change that I can distinctly remember is the transition from elementary school to middle school. I attended a Catholic school that went from kindergarten through 8th grade. When a class reached middle school, they attended classes in a different building. Middle school students were considered to be the leaders of the school. The girls even graduated from wearing jumpers to the very “cool” gray plaid skirts.
I remember being nervous about this significant change in my life. With it came many new obstacles to overcome, such as mastering a locker, switching classes, and dealing with multiple teachers. Although it was intimidating at first, I conquered these new trials and was all the better for it. By choosing to learn how to deal with each obstacle rather than complaining about it, I gained valuable skills such as organization and time management.
That change in my life seems fairly insignificant now. Life has thrown me several curve balls over the last twenty-something years. These transitional times in my life, such as starting high school, moving to a city for college, and my first job, along with all the obstacles that came with each one, have all lead to tremendous growth. Each one was a stepping-stone on my journey in life. Each one strengthened me and molded me into the person that God intended me to be.
The most recent change in my life has probably been the biggest curve ball of them all. I was supposed to be soothing a crying baby and changing diapers right now. God had other plans, though. Instead, my arms are filled with stacks of essays to grade and the packs of diapers sit, unused, in a closet. It has been quite a change from what my husband and I planned for over the course of this year. I am left with the choice to either grow from this terrible experience or wallow in self-pity.
So why are we always so hesitant to accept and grow from the changes that occur in our lives? I think that the answer stems from our society. We have a tendency to become comfortable and complacent. Change is hard, and growing from it takes work. Consequently, scripture warns us that complacency is a dangerous thing. We are told not to be “lukewarm” but rather either “hot” or “cold” (Revelation 3:15-16). Despite this warning, when things change and we are taken away from what is comfortable and normal, many of us are like a 6th grader on the first day of middle school – lost and a bit overwhelmed by all of the challenges that come with the change. We desire for things to stay the way they were because that would be easier.
The good news is that we are not left alone to just deal with the change and hesitantly wander the middle school hallways. There are wonderful teachers and the occasional kind student who will help us find our way around the new school building. We just have to ask.
All too often we forget to ask God for the strength to grow from the changes that take place in our lives. Instead, we complain to Him about the change and ask for Him to change things back. This is a waste of our breath, though. I would give anything for Isabelle to be with us once again, but I know that it is impossible. Stressing and wishing things were different doesn’t change the way things are now. Rather, I should be reflecting on how her short life has changed me into a stronger person and helped me to grow in faith. For those two things, I am thankful.
My sister and I wearing our super cool gray plaid uniforms