Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Safe Harbor

Everything changes. It has to. I know. It is such a fact of life that there are a hundred clichés about it. My favorite, of course, is the old "How many Lutherans does it take to change a light bulb? (pause for effect)  "CHANGE!!!????"   Being an old Lutheran, I can relate.
Some changes are harder than others. Some changes make marks on you that never go away. Like losing people you love, needing to find a way to go on without them. Sometimes they are taken by death, but sometimes they choose to leave you, and that mark can be a very tender scar. Even happy changes, like the birth of a baby, or the move to a new house, a new job, or retirement offer their challenges. Letting go of the kids happens in little pieces, but that final big one, the day when they load up the car and head out on their own or you wave goodbye from the parking lot of their dorm, that day sends a lot of us looking for solace. When a bunch of changes happen in close succession, feelings of being adrift in unfamiliar waters can keep you awake at night. This is where my harbor title comes in.
How easy it is to seek solace in things that are temporary themselves, or at least offer empty promises.  The first time we celebrated a holiday without one of our kids, I felt like something was truly wrong. I ached for the past, the time when everyone was together under one roof all the time. But you can't spend much time protesting change or longing for the way it used to be, or you get stuck. And society makes a lot of empty promises about things that can un-stick you. We all know the warning signs of becoming reliant on things...first you choose them, then you use them, then you need them, then you can't do without them. It can be the classics, alcohol or food or work or shopping or exercise. It can be the more subtle ones, relationships that cost you more than they give back, good causes that drain your energy and leave you hollow, social media that offers connection with a price tag...your self esteem. Traditions that start out as a blessing but become a burden.
The people I have known who have seemed to stay young all their lives, the ones I admire so much, have found an essential truth about youth that has nothing to do with appearance or even health. It has to do with courage to change, courage to allow the next generation to be different without being threatened. And the courage to continue on being themselves and living the way they want to live no matter what everyone else is doing. It isn't a small and selfish courage. It doesn't wish others would just be like them. It is a generous, outward-looking optimism that seems to accept a changing world as a matter of course. I want to be like that. I want to be the person who seeks solace in the unchanging safety of truth, grace and love.
Our daughter, Sally, wrote a song with a line so memorable it is burned into my brain. "I'm not build for crying, I'm built to fly".
Of course we cry. Of course we grieve and rail against the unbearable sadness of life. Then, we turn. We lift our faces to the sky. And we fly. It is what we do. Being grounded in the only truly safe thing there is, the only reliable solace in this life, we start from love and acceptance and return to love and acceptance. It is our safe harbor.

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