A version of this piece was published on Mbird.com.
In the past fourteen months I have started a degree, I have quit a job, I have left the home I knew and returned to a home I knew before. I have become a mother.
I have changed.
I have not changed altogether willingly. I know that some move away for new adventures, I know some take on challenges with gusto. I know some welcome children with grace and excitement.
I have never been one of those people.
I wept when I left the home we just sold, even though I knew it was time to go. I didn’t feel I was a mother until my midwife told me to reach down for my baby, until I saw him, until I knew his name. I didn’t turn in my last timesheet and walk into the sunset, I closed my computer and blinked – what now? I have required change to yank me over the edge; I have never surrendered to it.
This kind of change squeezes you through a tube. You have to contort, to adjust, to shapeshift your life and your perspective and your habits.
I was afraid that motherhood would change me. That it would change my marriage, my dreams, my future. And it has, of course. This you know, if you’re a parent. But if you’re not a parent I think you might know, too. It’s not parenthood. It’s any change, in and of itself.
Transitions are inherently disturbing because we’re afraid of what we’re losing, we’re afraid that different might be worse. We’re afraid of our relationships changing. We’re afraid that when a friend gets married or gets pregnant or moves away or changes jobs or changes their mind that they will be so intrinsically different that they won’t be compatible with us anymore.
I have spent more than a year terrified of change. And yet, one month after leaving what was home, three months after leaving a job that gave me immense purpose, fourteen months after becoming a parent, I am left with this fact: I am different. My fearsome truth is that I don’t remember what it felt like to be the me of two years ago. I don’t remember what it felt like to share her motivations, to move about my day like her. I don’t know how to get back to her. We have a lot in common. We would be friends; we would understand each other. But we are not the same person.
I have seen Pinterest quotes about this, I have seen encouragement to moms on Instagram. The you before kids is still in there.
I’m sorry, Instagram, but no, she is not. Or if she is, she is dormant; she has been starved.
Have you ever asked yourself, is the me before the trauma really still in there?
Is the me before the career change really still in there?
Is the me before the loss really still in there?
And what if they’re not? What if that would be to deny the power of the event, the ways you chose tenacity and cleverness and grace and joy and honesty, because change demanded it of you?
And what if that’s ok?
I’ve wrestled with this, I’ve let it be the knitting hook that wove knot after knot in my stomach. I’ve let it be the nag that screams in my head that I will lose my friends, my network, I will lose what makes me me.
But it hasn’t.
There’s an idea associated with this in the Bible – sanctification. It’s the idea that over the course of our lives, if we’re delighting ourselves in the Lord and surrendering ourselves to his will, that He is making us more like Himself. It’s the idea that God does not leave us where we are, that leaving an old self behind is not something to regret, but that sometimes letting the old things die is how we move toward what we need to become.
And this is the truth: sometimes the fears surrounding change will come to fruition. Sometimes the different feels worse for a time. Sometimes the inertia of my change is not compatible with the inertia of my friends’ changes. Sometimes this looks like hard work and awkwardness. Sometimes this looks like goodbye. And sometimes this looks like momentum toward something new, something wonderful, in ways that you never could have expected.
We have this idea that while our circumstances change we shouldn’t have to. We have this idea that if our friends change in ways that make us uncomfortable we should dig in our heels against the orbit of our lives.
But this other idea, this idea of good change toward a sanctified end, is richer, sweeter, and it’s rooted in truth.
Whether you are a person of faith or not, I encourage you with this: letting an old self go and opening your heart to change is not a selfish act, it’s not even a courageous act or a valiant act or a self-righteous one, it might be even simpler than any of that – maybe it’s just opening up to the way things are supposed to be. If you’re exhausted by resisting change, by holding onto a version of your past self because you’re afraid of what you’ll lose, you can surrender to what you might become.
Perhaps this inclination toward change is rooted in an ancient and sacred idea of God making you more like Himself.