And so I pulled out Through Painted Deserts by Donald Miller. [Small side note: if you have only ever read Blue Like Jazz by Miller, you are sorely missing out. Jazz is my least favorite of his books]. Immediately I remembered why I loved it. It is the story of the author and his friend, Paul, setting out on a journey across the desert country to Oregon. They travel in a VW van with no agenda and no plan. The book chronicles their journey, and Miller's spiritual journey, along the way.
In the author's note there is a paragraph that jumped out at me:
…everybody, every person, has to leave, has to change like the seasons; they have to or they die. The seasons remind me that I must keep changing, and I want to change because it is God's way. All my life I have been changing. I changed from a baby to a child, from soft toys to play daggers. I changed into a teenager to drive a car, into a worker to spend some money. I will change into a husband to love a woman, into a father to love a child, change houses so we are near water, and again so we are near mountains, and again so we are near friends, keep changing with my wife, getting our love so it dies and gets born again and again, like a garden, fed by four seasons, a cycle of change. Everybody has to change, or they expire Everybody has to leave, everybody has to leave their home and come back so they can love it again for all new reasons…. I want to keep walking away from the person I was a moment ago, because a mind was made to figure things out, not to read the same page recurrently. Only the good stories have the characters different at the end than they were at the beginning.I tried to think of my college-self reading that; tried to picture me, age 20, curled in my comforter in a small dorm room pondering what it meant to really leave and change.
I've written before about change, and it's no secret that I'm not its biggest fan. But last night, curled up in a different comforter, in a house I bought with my husband, in a home where I brought my first daughter back from the hospital, at age 27, my perspective on change is different.
I looked forward to college, but was scared to leave what I knew.
I looked forward to starting a new life with Brent, but was absolutely terrified to move to a new state and city.
I looked forward to returning "home", but was worried that I wouldn't fit in the places I once had.
Some of my fears were justified. I spent a lot of time homesick and missing Brent my first year of college. I was the loneliest I had ever been when we moved to Louisville. And "home" was very different than I thought it would be when we returned here.
But each move was necessary in changing me. I'm not supposed to be the same person I was when I was that 20 year old in a dorm room in northwest Iowa.
I really like how Miller says, "Everybody has to leave their home and come back so they can love it again for all new reasons." When I left for college I didn't realize just how taken care of I had been at home. And then I left for Louisville I didn't realize just how amazing the community of people I had been surrounded by at college was. And then when we moved back to Missouri I didn't realize how hard it would be to leave. And when I look back now, I love them all for new reasons. I love the people in each place, whom I realize shaped me and taught me. I love the ways my school challenged my thinking and yet grounded my faith. I love the way that my marriage had two solid years of "getting our footing" completely on our own, away from anything familiar to either of us.
And I thought about how I have had to change to become a mother, in some of the hardest ways possible, and some of the easiest too. How I had to learn to imitate the change in the trees to take on my new role as a stay-at-home mom and leave another thing I loved deeply.
Sometimes it is hard to see people you love stay static. I know some people who have moved and moved and moved physically, but have never let their hearts be changed or grown. And I know some people who have lived in the same place their entire life and yet have fertile souls for growth and change. I don't think relationships die because people change; I think relationships die because some people don't change, and they need to. They need to let God keep working on them, keep molding them, keep letting them go through winter and fall and spring and summer. I've heard a lot of marriages end when one spouse says to the other, "You just aren't the same person I married X number years ago." And that is probably a fair statement, but it's not a reason to leave. It's a reason to keep growing with them. The times that I get frustrated with Brent the most are when he is growing in an area and I feel stagnant. I resent it. But I think it is in these times we must bury our heads to the plow and get moving, and find ways to grow along side them.
I want to keep walking away from the person I was a moment ago…
Yes, I have learned that change is constant. Change is necessary. Change is hard. Change is good. I do want to be different at the end of this life than I am right now. I want to be better. I want to have learned more. And leaving and breaking and changing is what will shape that in me.