By MARTIN E. WILLOUGHBY, JR.
Over 2500 years ago, the Greek philosopher Heraclitus noted, “Change is the only constant in life.” In our twenty-first century world this certainly rings true. In addition to the incredible advances of technology, we simply live longer than any time in history and experience more and longer seasons of life. Adults today live on average about twenty-five years longer than the adults at the beginning of the twentieth century. Not too long ago, life had a fairly predictable pattern—go to school, get married, work, raise a family, retire, and die. However, life is not so predictable today. The workplace demands constant education, not just in our youth. People get married later in life or not at all. Families are started later in life and kids don’t always go off to school and launch in life—sometimes they come back! Retirement may be a few decades rather than just a few years.
Sometimes change comes in the normal course of life such as graduating school or getting married. However, sometimes change is less predictable such as a sudden loss of a job or a family member. None of us have the crystal ball to know when change is coming. However, we can live our lives in a way that allows us to be best prepared for life’s speedbumps and occasional path altering changes. In their book LifeLaunch, Pamela McLean and Frederic Hudson encourage us to “take responsibility for your life direction as fully as you can within a world of great surprises.” They suggest that, “The secret to a resilient life in our kind of world is in knowing how to invent yourself, over and over, letting go of what is no longer you, taking on new strengths, and shaping new chapters for your life…”
Somewhere along the journey in life, it is easy to just plateau. We can simply get stuck and no longer grow as individuals. Maybe the wonder of life from our youth is gone. Perhaps the daily grind just beats us down and plopping on the couch for some mindless entertainment becomes the escape. As Henry David Thoreau once said, “It’s not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: what are you busy about?
In my own observation, the people who seem to have the most interesting, joyful, and satisfying lives are those who are proactive in embracing change. They are constant learners and seek out new information. They are reflective and understand their purpose and calling in life. They are “others focused” and look for opportunities to serve—life is not just about them. They don’t measure success in life by how much they have, but instead, how much they give. They take time to reflect and consider the big picture. It is easy to avoid this type of self-reflection. As St. Augustine noted, “People travel to wonder at the height of mountains, and they pass by themselves without wondering.”
As followers of Christ, we can take comfort in the sovereignty of God. Our lives are connected eternally to the “Rock of Ages.” With this certainty, we can seek to live intentional lives that leave a legacy of goodness in the world. We can embrace the changes that come our way and ask questions like, “How can I learn from this experience?” and “How can I love more and deeper in this next season of life?
While change may be constant, so is our God!
Martin E.Willoughby, Jr. is a frequent writer and speaker on faith and business and is the author of Intentional Faith (Main Street Books 2014). He and his wife, Nicki, have two children, Ally and Trey, and live in Memphis,Tennessee.