I have an old chamois skin which I use when I wash my car. This chamois and I have been together for forty years, at least. The truth of the matter is that it is getting pretty ragged and worn out. Something about that is upsetting for me–perhaps I want it to be the same—like it was when it was new.
New cars are somewhat the same way. I really like the smell of the interior of a new car. When I buy a bright, shiny new auto (believe you me, that’s not often), l like it to retain it unsullied appearance and “presence.” When the first coke gets spilled and the nicks and dings show up from the parking lot, I get distressed. Inevitably, the car doesn’t remain new. It begins to lose my rapt attention to its detail, especially when the new models come out and I can afford another new one.
So it is with human beings. We tend to think of ourselves as changeless, as ageless, as constant. The truth is, we are not. We get older. We develop aches and pains. Our hairline recedes. We put on those extra pounds here and there. Our step slows. We try not to think about all of that. We try to deny it. Amid these unmistakable changes, we attempt to keep ourselves and those around us from changing. But when we are really honest with ourselves, we realize that we are not changeless. We are not permanent. We are very much impermanent. And it is at those times when I come to that truth that I feel like screaming out loud: “Stop it! I want to stay the way I am, right now!” And I know that with all my screaming, all my wishing, I will not slow down or stop the inevitable, inexorable change which is occurring in me all the time.
It is at times like these—coming out of the pandemic—perhaps gaining some freedom from the past year where we have been isolated—and beginning to see what changes have happened in our lives and the lives of others, that make this realization more apparent. My grandchildren have grown. My 14-year-old grandson put on six inches in the last twelve months! My granddaughter has given up her comfort, stuffed elephant, “Ellie” and is beginning to behave much more maturely as a young woman, a bit reticent to call me “Papa” now. We frequently come face to face with the realization that change is all around us.
OK, so this all is a little bit depressing…what with all that is going on around us. As always, it is helpful to look towards scripture to find some solace and comfort in the face of all that is changing around us. The Psalmist, considering the impermanent nature of his life said: “So teach us to number our days that we might get a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12) To roughly paraphrase the Psalmist, I would say: “Teach us to live each moment of our lives so that we might experience life in all its fullness.” This helps me to better deal with my impermanence. As I consider the transitory nature of life, it helps to align myself with that which is permanent…to reach out to the One who I know is eternal—that which is Divine. The hymn writer caught this when she/he said: Change and decay is all around, I see, O Thou Who changes not, abide with me.”