Picture this scene – it’s high school graduation week in small-town USA, and the seniors, many of whom have been in classes together since elementary days, are passing their yearbooks around, writing pithy sayings and signing names so that they’ll have things to remember each other by. These are emotional days – excitement about grand accomplishments, nervous about what’s next…wanting to step into the rest of their lives but longing to hang on to the familiar of the present.
It’s inevitable – more than once on that day someone will either say it or write it in countless year books: “Don’t ever change.” What a kind sentiment to write at such a sentimental time, right?
Back in the ’70s, Billy Joel made millions off of the same sentiment in his hit, “Just the Way You Are.” Although it could probably be interpreted as controlling and manipulative, Billy wanted his current wife (whom he wrote the song for) not change her hair color, her fashion choices, the way she talked… He crooned, ‘Don’t go changin’… because he loved her just the way she was…
That’s sounds wonderful… I just don’t think we can pull it off…
And I’m not sure we want to.
I know when I look in the mirror that I’ve changed over the years… There are a few more pounds and wrinkles and grey hairs than when I graduated from high school – actually, more than a few!
I hope that I’m a little more mature at 50 than I was at 18! I mean, I’ve graduated with two more degrees since then, so maybe I’ve learned a few things - that’s a change. I’m married, so there’s that - life-changing! And after raising two kids to their 20s, I think I’ve learned some things in the realm of parenting (and that may explain the grey hairs!).
Of course, it’s possible to change for the worse too. I’m sure there are people who you went to school with who have developed bad habits, made poor choices, or become less kind and gracious than they were.
I guess what I’m getting at is that change is inevitable. An ancient Greek Philosopher, Heraclitus once said, “No man ever steps in the same river twice.” It’s not the same river, and he’s not the same man. Like it or not, things are always changing…people are always changing. We should always be changing.
I want my life to be changing for the good. I want to grow.
Psalm 92:12-14 expresses that same thought: “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green…”
I want to flourish and grow! In order to do that, the Psalmist tells us that it’s a matter of where we’re planted. If we’re intentionally living in God’s presence, we’ll grow… We’ll always be changing for the better. Being planted in God’s presence involves spending time in worship, prayer, reading and studying Scripture, and other spiritual disciplines. Those habits are key factors in our spiritual growth and maturity.
I hope that every day I’m closer to my Heavenly Father than I was the day before. And if that’s true, then I’m also allowing His Spirit to change my heart, my character, to match His. I want to be more loving, more patient, more kind and gracious tomorrow than am I today.
So, at the risk of going against the theology of Billy Joel, and that girl who wrote in your yearbook years ago, I want to encourage you to ‘go changin’…! Implement practices and habits that will grow your life with God and change you, inside and out.
“Don’t ever change” sounds like stagnation. God wants us to flourish and grow!