It was 1998.
My husband and I were a couple years into our marriage, and we were given an opportunity to move on to new jobs. Both of us are type-A planners, so we scratched out a long list of “pros” and “cons.” We could see clearly: The benefits far outweighed the drawbacks.
But we both felt jittery about change. We had found our safe place. Our comfort zone was snugly tucked into a quiet cul-de-sac in suburban Omaha. Why mess with a good thing?
But we kept going back to that list, and we could hear it clearly in our “knowers” — that perceptive place under a person’s ribs. Our knowers heard this one word: Move.
Before I told my boss our news, I added a little sticky note to my computer. It said, simply, “change is good.”
A few days later, I packed up my cubicle, and that note traveled with me to my new job at a different newsroom in a different state. I taped the note to my new computer. It stayed there for years.
One day, the guy in the cubicle next to mine chuckled when he saw my little sign. He waved me over to his desk, and then he showed me his sign.
“Change sucks,” his sign declared. (I don’t like the word either, but … it is what it is.)
We both traded some good-natured ribbing. He teased me for my overly optimistic outlook on life, and I razzed him about his Eeyore-ish worldview.
A few years later, my husband and I had another decision to make — whether to move back to the farm. We prayed. We made our lists. We listened to our knowers. And we heard it again: Move.
When I packed up my cubicle, the note went with me.
Fast-forward to today.
This morning, I’m sitting here at my desk, writing to you — hundreds of miles and 17 years away from that first cubicle. That little sticky note is sitting right here, but it doesn’t stick on its own anymore. It’s faded by years of sun. It’s stained by I-don’t-remember-what.
That sign has seen our family through births, and deaths, and drop-to-our-knees years on this farm. The sign has been a silent witness to us starting over again and again, and failing miserably when we were sure we were doing the right thing. Sometimes our changes have been distrastous, others utterly glorious. But almost all of them have been a bit painful.
That note has been a quiet companion through sickness, and hospital stays, and depression, and new jobs, and that difficult stretch of months when we moved our family from one church to another.
Sometimes we changed our lives, and sometimes our lives changed us. The biggest changes have always happened on the inside, in that expansive interior journey where God asks each of us to move our hearts out of their own little cul-de-sacs. He ever causes us to see our world with new eyes, to reconsider our stubborn positions, and to see this beautiful-broken world from other vantage points. We hope we’ve done that. We’re still learning. We have been known to trip over our own two feet. But we hope that the changes we’ve made, in turn, made us better versions of ourselves. That is our prayer, and time will tell.
Change has been hard. Change has been ridiculously good. Change has been sad. And sometimes silly. Change has tasted like the salt in our tears, and it has looked like this expansive wilderness before us, and it has felt, at times, like quicksand beneath our feet. But God always throws us a rope, and sometimes we’re barely hanging on, but He’s still got it. God’s still got it. He is the rock under every bit of quicksand.
There is no rock-bottom where you can’t still find the rock.
And the rock doesn’t disappear when we leave the cul-de-sacs. Let’s test it to see.
Let’s venture from our inner cul-de-sacs, so we can know there is such a beautiful thing as a mountain, or a farm field, or a fjord, or a canyon, or a cliff. Let’s test it, to feel the rock beneath at our feet in a new place, where we meet people in the Great Big Out There. The people we meet might be the ones who teach us about our shared humanity, common dignity, greater justice, deeper kindness — people who will teach us more about an unchanging God in ever-changing times. You will only meet some of those people on the other side of your next big change.
Yeah, change is hard. But change can also be good, even if it goes bad — because God can work it for good, for His glory. I have to believe that, or I might never leave another cul-de-sac.
The other day a friend and I were talking about how everything’s changing, and she was worried about what was lurking around the corner, in the shadows where she couldn’t see. I told her about my little note, and about the other reporter’s note, the one that says, “Change Sucks.”
And I told her how I still have my note on his desk. And how that man with the Change Sucks sign? He is still in the same place, and every so often I hear from him, about how he’s none too happy with his life right now, but he can’t seem to make a change. He says it’s too hard to see what’s ahead, and leave behind what he knows to be safe, even if he’s a bit miserable most days. And so all these years later, he’s stayed. And sure, sometimes, there’s beauty in the staying. Sometimes it’s the best thing of all to do: to stay.
But sometimes, in your knower, you’ll hear God saying a word like this: Move.
He’ll be telling you to get going, to get out of the cul-de-sac. To find a Promised Land on the other side of a wilderness. And to live in the great Out There, in that place you can’t yet see. And the only vehicle that drives you to that place is the vehicle fueled by change —
the vehicle that will take you to the other side of your comfort zone.