When I was in high school, my AP English class had to read a book called Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. It was about an African village being missionized by the white man and the inevitable cultural and social changes that followed. The title is taken from a Yeats poem called, “The Second Coming.” The third line of the poem says, “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.” Achebe used this line to mean that for one central character who didn’t adapt to the changes, things fell apart. The center (of life, of meaning, of social understanding?) could not hold. While most of the village embraced the changes, the story ended tragically for the one who resisted them.
You’ve probably heard it said that the only certainty in life is change. This must be true. Personally, I get bored with too much repetition and routine, but I also find comfort in it. I like knowing what’s coming next, even if I’m not that stimulated by it. Change is more exciting, but it’s also scary, isn’t it? I tend to feel a lot of anxiety about the unknown. In the past two and a half years or so, very few things in my life have stayed the same. Three years ago, I was single but dating, and not sure whether I wanted to marry. I was working at a job I hated every single day (although I tried to make the best of it) and wondering what I wanted to do with my life. Today I am very happily married and going to school full-time for a career that I never would have imagined myself doing. It’s a step up to be sure, but not all changes are positive.
Since I started writing this column today, for example, our television went out. It keeps turning itself off and then on again and it’s driving us crazy. I also upgraded the operating system on my phone, and now I’m not sure how everything works. The season is changing from barely-winter to almost-summer. (Spring? What spring?) Within a few months, I will begin a master’s program, thus finally beginning to meet a goal that I have held for a very long time and at which I am terribly afraid of failing. Sadly, my beloved kitty is sick and will have to be put down soon. She’s been my constant friend for more than five years—longer than I’ve known my husband—and I can’t imagine adulthood without her. Michael Jackson died, Whitney Houston died, the Republicans have changed their leading candidate about 85 times, we’ve withdrawn troops from Iraq, Serbia is going crazy, tax season is in full swing, and I’m starting to put on a few pounds. One really can’t get accustomed to things the way they are.
Some things do stay the same though, don’t they? For example, I have come to trust that my husband’s love will always be there for me, day in, day out, good day, bad day, in sickness, health, bad moods, Spring Break, grief, celebration and boredom. By the way, ladies, it’s a great credit to him that I am able to say this; God and my family know what a feat it was (is) to make me feel truly secure in anything. But he has loved me consistently and faithfully, usually quietly, for a long time, and that love is a truth in my life that I have come to accept just as sure as I know that Mondays follow Sundays. But when I’m really honest, I must realize that even this love, as unending as it is, changes. He does not love me in the same way that he did when he first realized he loved me, or when he proposed, or when we married, or when we have faced
adversity together. His love is constant, but it changes.
If there is only one constant in our lives that truly doesn’t change, it is the unchanging nature of our Lord God.
- “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8
- “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17
- “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.” Malachi 3:6
- “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6
I find extraordinary peace, security and comfort from the truth of my husband’s love. Unfortunately, I know that my husband’s life is not guaranteed. As much as I wish I could just pretend we’ll truly be together until the end and die in bed together after 60 years of blissful marriage, I know how unlikely that is. I also feel safe in my home, but I know that a tornado could blow it away tomorrow. Even my own personality and knowledge base change as I mature and learn.
Some of these possibilities aren’t very fun to think about, but the point is that nothing in this life is guaranteed except for our Lord and His Word. If, as people, we find our deepest peace from anything other than the constancy of God’s eternal love, then we are setting ourselves up for tragedy. If we can’t accept changes as they come, knowing that the base of who we are as humans was defined long ago, and that our lives have purpose, we could end up like Achebe’s fictional Okonkwo. Sometimes, when we aren’t careful, things can just fall apart.