“Mom, be prepared.”
This is what I used to say to my Mom as a child every night before bed. Not your typical, “Goodnight-I-love-you,” am I right? I don’t know many women who long for their goodnight cuddles and their “I love you” to be returned with, “Mom, be prepared.”
But, for most of my preteen and early teenage years, I ended each day with a rigid routine – one where I placed my phone on the exact same spot on our coffee table, got ready for bed, washed my hands three times, restarted the bedtime music I slept to about 15 times, carefully took 11 sips of water – three regular, three big, three small, one gargling, one tiny – and then, always the same each night, “Mom, be prepared,” followed by the assurance, “Honey, I’m prepared.”
See, during those years I struggled with chronic anxiety and severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I couldn’t handle anything out of the ordinary and I worried constantly. I worried about my mom traveling on business trips. I worried about being the last one up at night. I worried about being away from home. I worried about school. I worried about losing my family or friends. I worried about germs. I worried about getting sick. I worried about what I thought. I worried about what I said. I worried about what I did. And I worried about change.
When I told my Mom to “be prepared,” I was telling her to be prepared for me to come wake her up in the middle of the night in case I had an anxiety attack, in case I couldn’t sleep, in case I had a bad dream, in case I couldn’t stop worrying, in case I had a bad thought. I told her to be prepared in case she fell asleep before I did, because then I’d have to wake her up so she could make sure I fell asleep first.
My aversion to change was so consuming it got to a point where if my mom or dad tried to change just one little thing about my routine – say moving a picture in my room or changing my bedtime music – I’d fall into hours of uncontrollable panic.
I hated change.
You know something, friend? I still do.
Thankfully, because my parents covered me with prayer and loved me through those days, I no longer fear sleepovers, I can go to bed without all the hand washing, and I am no longer bound by those chains as tightly as I once was.
But those tendencies of resisting and rejecting and despising change…those are still there.
They were still there when I graduated high school and moved away to college.
They were there when I graduated college and moved home.
They were there when I started working a big girl job.
There were there when I got married and moved in with my husband.
They were there when my husband and I moved away from my family less than six months into marriage.
And they were there when we moved again, for the third time within our first year of marriage, into a real grown-up home.
Yes reader, I’ve grown up and I have grown, but I still haven’t grown used to change.
And it’s not just that I don’t like the discomfort of change, even though that’s part of it. It’s that I don’t like who I am during seasons of change.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not the best version of myself during seasons of change and transition. And you know something? I think that used to be a lot easier to hide and the impact of that was limited when I was younger. Because change only came every so often. So, if I freaked out or acted out during a season of change, it wasn’t so bad because change only happened once in a while.
But in your 20s, change is guaranteed, and it is constant. Your home changes. Your friends change. You lose people and gain people. You switch majors, switch jobs, switch states. You find new passions and lose old hobbies. Maybe you get married. Maybe you lose the person you thought you would marry. Your plans change.
So, while maybe it felt okay when I used to struggle with change, it isn’t really an option anymore. Not that I can’t struggle, but…I just can’t struggle so poorly. I can’t act out, throw a tantrum, breakdown, and give up. I can’t use change as an excuse to treat my husband like garbage, withdraw into isolation and remove myself from community, speak with no control of my tongue, and cling to control and comfort and react to anything that threatens those pillars in my life because change is constant – if that’s how I respond to change and if change is constant, than that seems like a pretty rotten person to be 24/7.
Here’s the thing though – that is who I’ve been. In the last year and a half, I’ve finished school, started a new job, gotten married, lived in five different homes, changed Churches multiple times, said “See you soon” to so many dear friends and “soon” just isn’t soon enough. And though I want to be able to say I’ve been a champ through each of these changes, taken them in stride, and boldly walked into each one with confidence and grace and a deep trust in Jesus, that just isn’t the case.
I’ve been cruel to my husband. I’ve given into the temptation to control 1000s of times and have spoken harshly to others, withheld grace, demanded my way, and thrown tantrums. I’ve broken down at Menards, snapped at my husband in public, carried out my own to do list with anger, and kept my fists tightly clenched throughout the whole year. Rejecting change. Hating change. Seeking comfort and stability and peace, but so often, in the wrong things. So often, seeking security in myself. Seeking stability in my ability to control.
“Thus says the Lord; ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a shrub in the desert and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhibited salt land” (Jeremiah 17:5-6, ESV.)
But in reality friend, when I reflect on this year, this is what I’ve done. As my circumstances have grown unstable, as I’ve moved away from my sources of comfort, as my control and my plans have been wrenched from my tight grasp, I have trusted in none but myself. I’ve fallen into the trap of the enemy and the popular belief of the world – the one that tells us we are strong enough to handle anything. I’ve believed that if I just put on my big girl pants and rely on my inner strength, I’ll find the courage and ability to handle change like a boss.
But, let’s look again at what happens to the person who falls into this trap. The Bible says the person who does that, who looks to and depends on themselves and relies on their own ability to handle life’s circumstances “is like a shrub in the desert.” It says that they “dwell in parched places of the wilderness” (Jeremiah 17:6, ESV.)
And if I’m honest, that’s exactly how I’d describe myself during this last year of transition. I’ve ran to the desert. I’ve chosen my own control and my own idols of security and comfort, and I’ve run away from the secure foundation God wanted to provide me this year. I’ve been the one “whose heart turns away from the Lord” because I’ve been the one who “makes flesh [her] strength” (Jeremiah 17:5, ESV.)
But reader, it’s not wrong to look within to find strength if you are a follower of Jesus. Because you do have a spirit of courage and power and security coursing through your veins. You have the Holy Spirit, with all its radiant glory and power and miraculous strength, raging within your soul. So, it’s not wrong to look within to find strength when the source of the strength you’re looking to and leaning on is Jesus.
So, though I’ve walked through most of this year with my fists clenched and my heart icy, feeling vulnerable and exposed and threatened, God’s showing me that it doesn’t have to be this way.
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7-8, ESV.)
Friend, do you see the flourishing that is possible for a child of God in the midst of change? I didn’t see it before. I used to read this as just a verse on trust. But I was missing it.
This says that for the Christian trusting in the Lord – the one putting every ounce of faith into his hands, giving up control and saying, “God, you have it. You have my trust.” – the Bible says that for this person, regardless of when the heat comes, or the year of drought arrives, that son or daughter of God is still going to thrive and is still going to bear fruit.
It doesn’t say that for the child who trusts everything will be great. It doesn’t say they’ll never walk through seasons of trial and change and unknowns. It doesn’t say, “Trust God! That’s your ticket to a life of ease!”
No, it says heat will still come for the child who trusts God. There will still be years of drought. They will face uncertainty, pain, hardship, transitions, and loads and loads of change.
And yet. (Don’t you love that we worship a God who always gives us an “And yet?”)
And yet, sweet friend, as the trusting child walks through seasons of change, they do not fear. And they do not cease bearing fruit.
This means that change doesn’t have to bring out the worst in me. I don’t have to turn to control, I don’t have to go through a phase of playing the victim and lashing out and feeling vulnerable.
No, I can walk through change fearless. And I can walk through change bearing fruit.
This means I can love my husband well, even through the stress of moving and picking out curtains and leaving friends and family behind. I can experience joy and peace as I enter a season where there are a lot of to dos and a lot of unknowns. I can be patient as I wait on God to bring me deep friendship with women I can trust and be vulnerable with in this new home and this new season. I can be kind and good toward my co-workers, even as my personal life is changing or my career path is evolving. I can be faithful to Jesus and walk in obedience, even if the next “Yes, God” brings me in a direction I wouldn’t have chosen for myself. I can be gentle as I carry out new responsibilities, rather than angry and stressed out. I can be self-controlled and choose to respond to change with declarations of faith rather than fear (Galatians 6:22-23, fruit of the spirit paraphrased.)
Do you believe that, reader? Do you believe you can walk through seasons of change like that?
I’m learning to believe it. I’m learning to see how God’s grace has actually made this type of trust and this type of transition possible. I’m learning to see how he has given me the power to surrender my control for his provision. I’m learning to see how he has equipped me to walk through seasons that have always terrified me in the past, filled with confidence and boldness. I’m learning that we praise a trustworthy God who gives us the power to embrace seasons of change with open hands rather than clenched fists.
And I’m learning that though I can never be prepared for a single one of life’s changes on my own, I am following the God who reaches out to me in the darkest of nights and says, “Daughter, I’m prepared.”