The moment we are rooted in a place, the place vanishes. We live like a tree with the whole strength of the universe.”G. K Chesterton, Heretics
My husband and I moved to a new house last week. Like all movers, we entered an empty, echoing house and dreamed about what it would be. But mixed with my joy was also fear and sadness. I’ve never been good at change.
I grew up on five-and-a-half acres only seven minutes away, where Jon and I had lived with my parents for the past year. I had feared moving out of this place when we first married and moved into an apartment. I cried the first day I entered the apartment, trying to hide my tears from Jon so he wouldn’t think I was ungrateful. But with every change there is an ache similar to grief. I would miss my childhood home. But the grief was temporary. Somehow, with time, the apartment became my new home.
Like I said, we moved back in with my parents for a year to save money for a house, and it was wonderful. People always asked us what it was like living with parents, but Jon and I had no complaints. My parents are my best friends, and I have always loved the green acres, the trees, the garden, and the red barn. But we always longed for our own place.
Now that we’re here, this change, like all major changes in my life, makes me think about the past and everything I can’t experience again. I think about living in my childhood house with all three of my sisters before anyone went to college or married. I think about the dogs, the horses, and other pets that we raised and lost. I think about trips to Florida with my grandfather, or going to the zoo with my grandmother. I think about college and distant friends. And it feels like everything is slipping away.
But there are things that don’t slip away. The memories are always with me. The stories. The photographs and videos. The lessons and the gratitude.
And in place of the old is always something new. Can I believe that the future will be even greater than the past? Can I believe that I haven’t yet experienced all there is?
When I was a teenager, people used to tell me, “Don’t take this time for granted. These are the best years of your life.” But this wasn’t true. My teenage years were a mixture of growth and heartache and over-zealous emotions. In college, I thought I had finally made it to the good years. Nothing could be better than that. But then I graduated and married Jon and thought now I had reached the best of my life.
Maybe the best is always yet to come, as though our capacity for joy grows as we age. I know that fears are weakened and faith is strengthened. I know that love is greater even after loss. I know that I am a more whole person than I ever have been, and that I’m not finished yet.
I’m always suprised how quickly we can settle into change.
For the past several days, Jon and I have been rooting ourselves into our new place. We have stamped our presence on the walls, filled the air with scents from previous homes, and dug up soil for plantings. We have identified every tree and shrub and work to build the soil for new life. This empty, echoing house is now a home because we’ve loved it and lived in it. And as we root into this small space, we, like Chesterton wrote, “live like a tree with the whole strength of the universe.” The more we experience a place, the more we experience the world. The more we settle, the more we tap into what makes life worth living.
Somehow, this small acceptance of change gives me hope for the future. No matter what changes or disruptions may come, we will be able to find home again. We will have our strength from past struggles. We will have our joy from future hope. We will have our ability to break soil and plant new life. We will have our meals and our sleep and our prayers.
Fear of change, I think, is really a fear of loss. What I have to remember–what I hope to always see–is that change always brings new life. Winter brings spring. Fire brings seedlings and healthy soil. And, because of Christ, even death brings everlasting life.