Below the Surface of Change

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Do you ever feel like your boat is sinking and you can’t understand how something seemingly insignificant could have such a huge impact?

Welcome to CHANGE!

I recently had two iceberg moments that were poignant reminders of how change really works.

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Nearly two years ago, a friend passed away – suddenly. Our church affiliation had us working together for several years. While we weren’t close friends, we shared many powerful experiences and I knew I would miss him.

More than missing him, I was filled with sadness for his wife. She was completely unprepared for his sudden departure and it has been heartbreaking to watch her go through this grieving process. I would say that his death was the chunk of ice about the waterline. I saw it – I felt it – I expected to be sad for a time. I knew that I would do whatever I could to be a good friend to his wife and be there for her in whatever way I could.

However, I have been surprised many times by the tears that seem to come from nowhere. His favorite children’s hymn was ‘I’m trying to be like Jesus’ and I can’t sing more than a few notes of that song without choking on tears. He used props when he taught the little kids a Sunday School lesson. One of those lessons was about the wise man building his house upon the rock and every child got to pick a rock from his basket. At his funeral, everyone in attendance could take one of those rocks home with them. That rock sits on my desk and I oftentimes look at the rock, and I have this overwhelming sadness well up inside of me.

A few weeks ago, I decided to try and look beneath the waterline. What was really going on down there that was causing me such grief? When this friend died, so did the opportunities to do more work together. There would be no more of those deep conversations I thoroughly enjoyed. I wouldn’t get any more phone calls asking me to provide insights about an individual or a situation. I realized in that moment, that my grieving was about much more than his actual death. It was the death of a relationship and a loss of times together that couldn’t be replaced.

In some ways, it was wonderful to pause and look deeply at what his death symbolized. The change was on the surface and I could see it, but the parts that I valued and the experiences I was grieving were buried deep.

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The second change I recently experienced was having a friend move. Again, it’s not somebody I see every day or even every week, but he is someone that I have felt close to since the moment I met him. For very good reasons, he and his family have moved several states away. There had been several weeks between the time I heard the news and when I finally saw him at church. We passed each other in the hall and when he said, “I need to talk with you about this move,” I burst into tears and told him that I couldn’t handle it right then.

Every time I thought about it over the next few weeks, I would start to cry. Again, I was puzzled by the extreme emotional response I was having. After a tearful night (and no, this wasn’t hormones at work) I chose to go beneath the waterline and ask myself what was really going on here. That was when I realized that this change in my life was symbolic to me of how time was passing and how many things that brought joy, fulfillment and meaning to my life were going away.

It was a reminder that I have less of those times in front of me than I had in the past. His moving brought up all the other relationships and situations that have changed. William Bridges says that every change has elements of transition within it and if we don’t take the time to acknowledge and work through those in the moment, that they will stack up in our transitional attic and one day, when we least expect it, all of those changes that we hurriedly passed through will come crashing down on us. At those times, we will be surprised by the BIG reactions to seemingly SMALL things.

Thus, the small chunk of ice above the waterline that punches a hole in the side of our boat which slowly allows water to leak in over time until we feel like we’re sinking.

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Moral of this story? We should look more closely at each change in our life and take time to notice what lies beneath the surface.