Uncertain, unpredictable, volatile, inconsistent... these and many other unstable-oriented adjectives (UOA's) are occupying a good portion of our society's thinking these days. We are in an age of transition. Transition is OK... for everyone else. Tolstoy said, "Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself." When UOA's call for me I'd rather not pick up the phone. They're messy and usually call collect. Yes, I've had lots of experience with change. Jobs, deaths, fires, relationships, and parenting have all brought opportunity for immense transition. One would assume that by now I would be able to navigate these waters with a great outlook. Not necessarily.
I had a conversation with our 14-year old daughter recently. She knows our family is almost certainly facing some kind of dramatic change in the near future. She went out of her way to assure me that whatever the changes were, she was committed to being positive. I was so grateful to hear her unsolicited encouragement. I looked at her for a moment and thanked God for her.
And then I asked God to protect her.
Because hope can do something for her but it can also do something to her.
Don't get me wrong. I want her to hope. It's what we're told to do. "Be joyful in hope". I know it's good. But I've lived long enough to know that anything good can cast a shadow. In the case of hope, the shadow is called vulnerability. The truth is, hope opens me up to potential disappointment in a way that not hoping doesn't. Hope is a down the road, future-oriented investment and like any good human I'd rather have the immediate payoff of anxiety.*
Still, her resolve helped me. The 14-year old is positive. I will be as well. And you can be too. Wrestling with transition has helped me come up with three action points for you...
1-Be still. Be in the moment. You cannot fast-forward and you can't afford to go in reverse. The only thing left is to be where you are, right now. Something internal must happen before the season changes and internal things can't be rushed... nor the seasons.
2-Hold on to what you know is true. (Which is what the pastor from Mtn Valley reminded me last weekend.) There are many UOA's out there that may or may not happen. Focusing on them only makes life overwhelming. Simplify. Focus on what you know to be true and then let all the other things come or go as they need.
3-Accept responsibility of being joyful in hope. Not choosing to hope is giving into fear and blame. Sometimes the only person you blame is yourself. It feels tough but it's really not. When you blame yourself it reinforces fear. Then you end up convincing yourself that you cannot do this, you cannot change. Well, that's not an option so accept the responsibility.
*June Issue of The Atlantic - George Vaillant - provides interesting study on happiness and hope.