In just three weeks, summer officially fades to fall. I can sense it already. The sun sleeps a bit later each morning, then takes up a different position in the sky. Its rays are slant, casting different shadows. I look across the street and see the top leaves on our neighbor’s maple have the slightest touch of fiery red. And over the weekend, as we drove north to a celebration of life service for the mother of a beloved friend, we saw the glorious Midwest corn fields all tall and crisp, a golden offering against a wide blue sky.
All of these are markers of change.
Change is a funny thing. We both crave and resist it. Some change we embrace, heartily—especially if we’ve been longing for it. We celebrate new beginnings, new jobs, new homes, new humans. But there are plenty of changes we resist. We dig in our heels and grow agitated when plans fall apart, or flights are delayed, or the years leave an imprint across our brow. And some change we long for, desperately, but it eludes us, leaving us breathless in the chase. We yearn for approval. We strive for success. We hustle to get ahead. We ache for our loved ones to be safe.
Our relationship with change is, as they say, complicated.
Whether it’s seasons or employment or success, change often comes on its own terms. The part we play in life isn’t inconsequential, of course. But so much about how the world spins and pulses is decidedly out of our control.
Many conversations I’ve had in recent months are laced with personal reactions to change, to what is under our control and what isn’t. Change and reactions to change aren’t new, of course. But these are new in terms of our current cultural moment. We are reacting to new changes, to new ways that the world has turned upside down.
I distinctly remember a time when Christians observed the unrest of the world and held on to the hope of Jesus to stay steady, even feeling compelled to lend and offer His stability to others. But more and more, the instability of the world seems to have overwhelmed God’s people too.
Of course, we are in the middle of unusual circumstances. It’s not every day that the world battles a pandemic.
But I’m just enough of an idealist that I refuse to believe there isn’t a way to follow Jesus through this uncertainty, in ways that create stability for myself and others. I think it’s possible to find a firm foundation. I think we can find it where it has always been, in the tenets of our faith, in the ways Christians have sought more of Jesus throughout the centuries. It’s simple, yet not: we keep following Jesus, seeking Him in ever deeper ways.
I’ve been thinking about what that means, practically speaking, so I’ve gone back to the basics, looking at what Jesus invited us to in the first place:
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)
Following Jesus is really an embrace of a certain kind of change. We lay down some things; we pick up others. We move forward after Jesus in faith, trusting that His love for us is the steadying force we need to navigate the world and all its uncertainty.
The change that Jesus calls us to—offers us—comes with a promise of abundant life. Jesus proclaimed, “I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance” (John 10:10). But the way is one of sacrifice, of letting go, of yielding to the weight of His cross that puts to death the things that want to steal away true life.
Following Jesus will change us. He will mold us with His love, His mercy, His selflessness. That’s the sort of change I need, and the sort of change I want to see in the world. So today, once again, I’ve decided to follow Jesus. As the season changes from summer to fall, as the pandemic rages all around—I’m pressing into Jesus and the change He promises, with hope.