By Rev. Dr. Heather Wright: Navigating Change

The Rev. Dr. Heather Wright is the Pastor of Care and Connection at Stanwich Church.

By Heather Wright

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately…and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life…” Henri David Thoreau

This is a season of many transitions, for so many that I minister to and in my own life as well. We are transitioning to a return of some old routines but in new ways. Other aspects of our lives have been permanently altered, and we are in the business of trying to find our way ahead.

Change brings both joy and sorrow. We expect sorrow at a memorial service, but we don’t always anticipate it at a wedding, but it is there. Family dynamics are changing. Children’s allegiances are shifting to their spouse and letting go of the old to embrace the new which is happening for everyone involved. The celebration of new love and expanding family can coexist with feelings of loss.

Our youngest daughter graduated from high school last month. In a few weeks, she will be starting her new life as a college student in Washington, D.C. For me this time has joy and sorrow all mixed together. Being a therapist by training, I am aware I have had anticipatory grief. This is when we grieve ahead of time knowing a loss is coming. Because I have gotten teary for a few months, it has also allowed me to be more fully present at award ceremonies and graduation to celebrate these marker events in her life. I found at both I didn’t even shed a tear, much to my daughter’s surprise. It helped feeling the loss as it came up in the proceeding months. There will be more grief to come. But I am also delighted that we are launching her into her new life and aware my husband and I will begin our own adventure as empty-nesters. After decades of our lives being defined by children, parenting, and allowing their needs to come before ours, this will be a new journey for us.

Even as I know tears will come again in the future just as they came before, I’m also committed to living out the next five weeks with all the joy of a child under our roof, to celebrate each day as a gift in and of itself and to pray for our children in their lives apart from us. I know that grief is proof that we have loved well, enough to feel the loss. Navigating change is being honest with ourselves, others and God about the loss and the love. Sometimes those feelings can be messy and there is no workaround. The best way to heal is to go through them.

Joy and sorrow. Both are part of an abundant life, which Jesus promised his disciples in John 10:10. “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (ESV). Other translations say, have it to the full…I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.” Life abundant is not just a string of happy days but it’s life in all its fullness, the joy, the sorrow, feeling celebration and defeat, knowing despair and the sweetness of hope. It is life this side of heaven and in the life to come. I pray at the conclusion of my life that living close to the heart of God, I might have lived the abundant life. For me that means to have walked it with God, inviting the Holy Spirit to abide in me, know the mind and peace of Christ’s sacrificial love enough to be able to share it with others.

How do you define an abundant life?

The Rev. Dr. Heather Wright is the Pastor of Care and Connection at Stanwich Church. She is also a therapist, chaplain and author of four books. For more information, visit heatherpwright.com.

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