I’ve always been a lover of change. There were no tears from me on the last day of high school — I was already half-way to College Station in my heart and mind. Even at the conclusion of those college days my Dad told me would encompass “the best time of [my] life”, I couldn’t wait to start graduate school and get a move on. That isn’t to say that I don’t value loyalty or enjoy nostalgia, but rarely have I experienced fear over changing circumstances. Although, recently I started to wonder if that was wholly good. Darn that desire to practice more self-awareness in my thirties.
For me, change is almost always partnered with an intoxicating novelty I tend to bask in. Novelty, that I’ve just begun to see, can do a number on my already handicapped ability to be objective. Not that I never suffer from cynicism, but it’s not often my vice when presented with new people, a new order or way of doing things, or even a blank slate from which to create. I usually approach change with, I admit, a fair amount of naiveté and blissful enthusiasm. This is slightly different from my husband, of course. How else would iron sharpen iron, right?
For example, the first Sunday we visited a new church — that I had already researched and read up on, of course — I was quickly overwhelmed with giddiness. Rightfully so as many of the aspects of church I had deemed non-negotiable moving forward were playing out in this beautiful harmony right in front of me and to a degree I honestly didn’t know if I’d ever find in Houston. (See, I do suffer from some cynicism.)
Between the condensed size of the congregation, inclusion of women in every aspect of the service and church leadership, emphasis on slower, more contemplative worship, and the mention of a book by one of my favorite authors being the congregational devotional for Lent (oh, and the recognition of the liturgical calendar!), I was beside myself. I probably teared up with joy nine times, and you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face if you tried. I was not hallucinating, I was affirmed in my convictions (as opposed to feeling like an outsider, troublemaker and quasi-heretic), and that was only the first ten minutes.
The inclusion of children’s church, the thoughtful recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, the singing of the doxology, the heartfelt congregational responses to celebrations like baptism and infant dedications, the beyond-impressive number of unprompted welcomes we received from various members, and the fact that the pastor greeted us on our way out and said “let’s get lunch sometime”, nearly pushed me over my emotional limit. On a scale of one to ten with my wedding day being a ten, I was probably at an 8.5. I wish I could bottle that kind of enthusiasm and sell it. If only, Shark Tank.
But if you were to look over to my husband during those first ten minutes, you’d see a more reserved portrait of a person vacillating between open-mindedness and nervous tics. We were definitely on the same page regarding our desires for church, but our outward appearances and processing methods were polar opposite. His right knee couldn’t stop bouncing, his eyes were slightly wide and his body a bit shifty sitting amidst the wooden pews, cathedral ceiling and breathtaking stained glass. He couldn’t have been more supportive of my curiosity of this newly discovered egalitarian baptist church a mere fifteen minutes from our front door, but the man isn’t as much of a lover of change. He analyzes first and feels later, is admittedly more pessimistic than me, and plays the role of devil’s advocate very well. His overall attitude couldn’t be more gracious, but he’s a harder sell overall. This used to drive me crazy and prompt a lecture about him being a stick-in-the-mud, but I’ve really learned to appreciate this aspect of his personality.
The balance his perspective brings challenges me to temper my assessment of newness with little less emotion and a bit more objectivity. I’ve come to understand that’s not a proverbial wet blanket at all but rather a strength. Plus, it leads to a lot less disappointment if something doesn’t end up being as perfect as those first few glances deem. Thankfully, our marriage has been thriving despite this difference between us, and it’s been a real testament to our commitment to being true and mutually submissive partners.
If I’m perfectly honest, though, I have to make note of the fact that the type of change I love is usually the kind I can anticipate or control. I don’t know many people who thrive on being blind-sided, so I’m sure this perfectly normal. However, how I choose to respond to abrupt change is what I’ve also been working to improve. Constructive coping skills don’t naturally bubble up when my expectations are challenged, and I’m tired of paying the price for poor ones. Between the inevitable disappointments in relationships, the flat-out crazy throes of newborn-hood (which I can still remember and anticipate, even four years later), and minding the delicate balance between personal preference and compromise with my husband for the greater good of our family, it’s a worthy, if not crucial, endeavor. Change, tumult, and sheer surprise will be recurrent companions as I journey through life, that’s for sure.