3 Things I Learned About Embracing Change (while traveling the world)

bogotaI write this while overlooking the city lights of Bogota, Colombia from atop a mountain. The vast skyline of South America’s second-largest city seems to wrap around me and never end, it’s lights casting an orange-pink hue into the hazy, night sky.

Last month, I was sleeping in a tent in the middle of Swaziland, one of Africa’s most impoverished nations. Nights in Swaziland were almost too beautiful for words. It wasn’t the typical rural, night sky with a sprinkling of stars- it was like standing inside a dome of rich, black velvet, studded with an array of twinkling diamonds on every side.

From twinkling stars to city lights, from crowing roosters to car alarms; from Siswati to Spanish, from African cuisine to Latin- each month, everything in my life changes.

Everything.

Stars Over Swazi March 2016
Stars Over Swazi, March 2016 Photo Cred: Caleb Owens

And not the type I’m okay with- you know, the “I’ll take a new yoga class” or “let’s cut bangs!” type of change.

This is new food, new work assignment, new schedule, new sleeping and living quarters, new hosts, new local friends, new language, new cultural rules, new climates, new time zones, new sights, sounds, smells, tastes, emotions, celebrations, and challenges.

This is the type of change that is the pinnacle of both adventure and exhaustion.

In the past 8 months of living from a backpack, I haven’t just had my comfort zone challenged- I’ve had it annihilated. I have loved it, embraced it, resisted it, been energized and exhausted by it. I’ve cried. I’ve laughed. I’ve thrown up. I’ve adventured.

I have lived.

In the school of life, “change” is my major this semester- and I’m learning more than I ever thought I needed, or knew was possible. I’ve survived it’s demanding lessons and taken its exams. I’ve not done it perfectly, but I’m doing it. Along the journey, I’ve learned three truths about change.

Change is About Control

We need change, seek change, and want change- but change is only welcome to the extent that we can maintain a sense of balance and control. Change can appear slow or deliberate- a move, new business, or relationship; or it can be sudden, unexpected, and shattering – the diagnosis, divorce, or death. Either way, it’s terrifying and disorienting. It invades an otherwise comfortable place. Our predictable, known life is exchanged for an unknown one- usually without our permission. When too much predictability disappears- so does our sense of safety.

Change threatens our perceived sense of control.

Change uproots deeply planted fears.

Change confronts the false identities we’ve constructed while living in our comfortable, safe zone.

So what happens when change confronts and threatens us? We attempt to manage variables, plan responses, and anticipate outcomes- ruminating over the “what if’s” and working ourselves into all manner of panic, worry, and despair. We’ve all done it.

If we can’t grasp control of our real life circumstances, at least there is a sense of control in our imagination.

It’s okay to mourn loss and feel afraid. Identify what you are afraid of and confront those fears. You must mourn, and then you must move. Eventually, you will have a choice to make.

Change is About Choice

When change comes, so does the choice to embrace or resist. Resistance is our default nature, a first line defense for self-protection. Embracing the unknowns is a process of accepting the choice that lies before you.

You can let go of life as you have defined it, and grasp new opportunities to be who you were created to be.

You can release old dreams and expectations, and take hold of better ones.

You can resist risk and stay put, or embrace it and step into adventure.

You can confront the false identities you’ve constructed to control perception- you can take off the masks, or you can avoid the vulnerability of change.

If you choose to embrace truth and the unknown, you will find yourself smack in the middle of the journey of a lifetime.

Change is About Vulnerability

Whether change seems small or cataclysmic- it is a journey that will move you away from fear and into courage- if you choose it. This is more than mustering up the bravado to “take the leap” or “just do it”, this is a journey into immoveable, unshakeable courage of soul.

The courage to trust that God doesn’t author pain, but enters into it with you.

The courage to believe that your story matters and the courage to tell it.

The courage to live in the truth that you are seen, known, and loved. Just as you are.

It’s a journey into real, authentic faith- the kind that doesn’t hide in a church pew. The kind that feels unsafe and vulnerable- because it is.

Change is an opportunity to write a better story with the Author of The Greatest Story Ever Told.

“The Lord our God said to us, ‘You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Turn and take your journey…” (Deut. 1)

It’s time to choose. Are you going to live free or live safe? In fear or in faith? It’s time to turn and take your journey, my friend.

It’s an adventure of a lifetime, and you will never go alone.

 

 

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