April 13, 2012

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Change is necessary whether we like it or not

Cynthia DewesWell, the Easter season is still upon us, although the kids are finally sick of jellybeans. The plastic grass has been vacuumed up, and the errant eggs retrieved from the yard long after the Easter egg hunt. It feels like a kind of anti-climax. But it isn’t because the real focus of Easter is hope, joy and looking ahead. The trappings may be gone, but the substance remains.

Easter is a time of optimism, but it sometimes requires change to fulfill its promise. Especially as we age, change becomes harder and we tend to resist it. We want the happy result without the angst it sometimes takes to achieve it.

Against our will, we learn the new program on the computer or try to be smart enough to use the newest smart phone. We listen to some current music or watch a popular TV sitcom, trying to find merit in what the young are “into” these days. We struggle to interject a hip—if that’s still a usable adjective—phrase into conversation with the “grands” or the teenage store clerk. We work at it.

Still, we know that we should concentrate more on the larger matters of attitude and behavior. Things like learning to withhold judgments about others we meet or being more tactful. We need to learn to listen more closely instead of being impatient to interject our own opinion into the conversation. We must let go and let God do God’s thing through us.

While pursuing change for a better future and change from a shady past, though, we should always appreciate the moment. It seems to me that the promise of Easter includes joy in our present condition.

And there is always some kind of joy if we look for it. God has given us life, for starters, plus natural talents and skills and intelligence and other qualities that can help us succeed in our pursuit of heaven. Not to mention the beauty of nature and all of God’s creation to take pleasure in. Even a good night’s sleep or eating a tasty meal can bring joy.

Sometimes, besides all that and even without trying, we are given transcendent moments in which we sense glimpses of Easter’s promise fulfilled. We feel the warm affection of a distant friend or a beloved person who has died. We suddenly understand a child’s unspoken need and how to answer it. We realize we have done good work, or reached the high note without effort, or solved the seemingly unsolvable engineering problem. God turned on our spiritual light bulb.

Now, change just for the sake of change is never a good idea, either. It seems that bureaucracies in particular, whether in government or the church or the workplace, sometimes come up with changes apparently meant to justify their existence. And if we are unwittingly part of such efforts, I think we should work to change the system rather than contribute to worthless changes demanded by it.

But that takes courage, which is often hard because it requires leaving our comfort zone. We like to hang on to the same iffy job or eat the same unhealthy foods as long as possible. Only courageous commitment to the effort makes any fulfillment possible.

That’s true when we do our best work or study as hard as we should or even stay married to one person for a lifetime. If we can do that, I think our transcendent moments will become permanent.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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