I was relaxing on my day off from work, text messaging my father, and started thinking about “change.” First, my thoughts jumped to Jim Butcher’s novel Changes in the Dresden Files series. After that, I managed to start thinking on change more seriously. Surprisingly, though, Jim Butcher’s book continued to hold in my thoughts. So I started picking it apart, dissecting its title and plot. Perhaps not so surprisingly, the protagonist and narrator of the novel, Harry Dresden, undergoes several changes in mind, body, and soul. Granted, his experiences in this particular novel, and the entire series, go far beyond anything a normal person will know.
I then started to think about my own life and the changes that I’ve experienced in my small number of years. I’m young, in the grand scheme of life, but even I have had some changes. My older brother enlisting in the Army; graduating from high school and moving out of state for college; getting engaged; graduating with honors from college; getting married; the news of our soon-to-be-here daughter; new jobs; new responsibilities.
Have those changes been good, or bad? In hindsight, they’re good. At the time, though? Some of those times were rough, and not necessarily filled with hope and happiness. My brother joining the Army was something very hard for me. It meant that he would never be to any of my football games, or see me graduate from high school. It meant he would miss out on many things in my life. It made me sad and depressed that every time I made a great play, or somehow stood out from others, that he couldn’t be there to see it. As I grew up, I realized that was pretty selfish. He’s proud of me, even if he couldn’t be there in person to see those accomplishments. In turn, my sadness grew into overwhelming pride in my brother. That itself was a change.
My entire scholastic experience was filled with hundreds of changes, from handling stress to dealing with “questionable” situations on my own. I’m no longer the boy that I was my freshman year of high school, or even the man standing at the altar getting married. Life has an interesting way of directing and influencing your life.
The quote above by Heraclitus is a perfect example of change. Though his topic was on metaphysics and the perceivable world, it still applies. His concept was this: you cannot step in the same river twice because it is always moving, always changing. The water is not the same water that you had stepped in before; that water has flown downstream to be replaced by other water. Those same molecules are somewhere else. Holding to that principle, your right foot and left foot aren’t even in the same river. Life changes, moves, adapts. The water flows around you on its insistent journey downstream.
You are never the same person.
Yesterday, I made decisions and was formed by those choices. The day before, I also made decisions and was formed by those. Today, I’m faced with choices I must make. Tomorrow. And the next day and the next after that. Every single day of our existence, we are faced with choices. How we respond to those choices, to those situations, dictates who we are and who we eventually become. An ancient Greek philosopher (forgive me for not remembering his name or the exact quote; I believe it was Aristotle) said something to the effect that actions create habits and that these consistent actions, or habits, create who we are, so be careful with what you say and do for it will form your character. Every choice we make is an action, and therefore lends itself to the formation of who we are.
Change is simply the effects of those choices. If we choose to switch lanes on the highway, then get stuck behind a slow car while our previous lane zooms by, thus making us late for some appointment, we must live with it. We must adapt. We must change.
Darwin flushed out the idea of the Survival of the Fittest. It is, in a way, the essence of our daily lives. Not in some kind of physical confrontation, or even intellectual competition, but in our own capacity for handling whatever life throws at us. We are forced to adapt, to change, to grow, or risk being stuck in whatever station we find ourselves in.
This requires a certain amount of courage and hope.
My parents are moving up to Alaska this weekend. For the first twenty-something years of their marriage, they lived in California, then a few years ago moved up to Washington so my father could get a better job. That job turned out to not be that great, but they were better off in a new place. Now, they’re doing something takes much more courage than facing a bad job every day. They are leaving behind what they know and understand and are embracing a completely different life. My older brother will be there to help them, with his wife and son, but it is still a vastly different experience. It is a major change in their lives and it has not come easily.
Both are plagued with doubts and worries, particularly my father, about “abandoning” my wife and I (and our upcoming daughter). My father worries about the example he’s set for his sons, about the choices he hopes we do or do not make. I can’t blame him for his concerns. If anything, it proves to me just how great of a man he is. He’s sacrificed so much for his family, just so we could have food on the table and a roof over our heads.
The courage and strength he’s shown us is the best example he could ever have set.
Change is a part of life, it’s what makes it exciting, terrible, wonderful, sad, beautiful, terrifying, and amazing. Every twist and curve in the road of life is centered on change. Every choice, every decision, every opportunity shown to us requires courage and hope. One verse in the Bible that is my personal favorite and that I believe exemplifies the belief in courage and hope is John 1:5 – “A Light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.” Even a single candle can light up a room. One, small, solitary flicker of flame at the end of the tunnel can guide you through the whispering darkness.
Tread forward, dad, and embrace the change for what it is: another step on the road of life. Enjoy the ride. When you’re on a rollercoaster, you can’t change its speed or direction. All you can do is enjoy it. Throw your arms up in the air when you go plummeting down and let out a scream of excited terror, then take a deep breath and relax on the slow climb back to the top. Because, no matter what, there will be a top, a top that, when you get to it, let’s you see the whole world.