Graduations are always a little bittersweet. They signify a level of accomplishment and completion, but they also mean change and all the mixed feelings that accompany it. This spring, one of our youngest daughters graduated from the 8th grade and is now beginning that very exciting and terrifying summer before high school. Two of our adult daughters finished their degrees and moved back home until each of them begins a new job in a new city.
For Nadja and Katerina, moving back home meant going through what they've managed to accumulate, and stuffing whatever they decided to keep into suitcases, boxes, or cars. For the rest of us, it means at least a few precious weeks with people who grew up and don't live here full time any more. It also means a foyer full of suitcases, and lots of things that might be put away if only there was a place to put them!
Moving out is never easy. It's hard to let go of things, even if you've outgrown them or they've outlasted their usefulness. I don't know about anyone else, but it's always been hard for me to tell just what I might need at some later date, especially if I'm not quite sure where I'm going or when. But the kind of sorting that makes it so much easier to stay put than to move is also the kind of sorting we all need to do -- at least if we hope to grow.
But moving out is often the first step in moving up. Far from storming off or burning bridges, we all need to move out of ourselves. That usually involves coming out from behind all the stuff we use to insulate or protect us from hurts that have yet to heal. It means a conscious going forth from what is to what can be, even though we know that we are likely to take at least a few things with us that would be better left behind. It also means letting go of one rung before we are able to firmly grasp the next one. That can be pretty scary. Most of us are at least a little afraid of heights.
I used to say that home was where my junk was. Now I'm not so sure. Chances are that when we need to find a new place to live, it may be because we are discovering a new way to live. It is no coincidence that the Gospels' stories of faith, healing, and forgiveness almost always include someone leaving something behind. It is not possible to follow Christ without moving on. That means resisting the temptation to stay where we are. It also means learning how to ask for and give forgiveness.
No matter how good we get at it, moving on doesn't come naturally. Whether we're enjoying the view from a mountaintop or looking up from the bottom of a ditch, it's easy for inertia to get the better of us. Fear of the unknown and our discomfort with change can make it difficult to move at all.
Yet move we must. We leave one school behind and go on to another. We leave one stage or state of life behind and embrace another. We move beyond a circle of friends or coworkers, and into new directions. We may move away from dysfunctional relationships or behaviors and into healthier and more stable interactions. We can break from sin and receive the grace we need to leave one version of how we are who we are behind and reach toward who and how God has called us to be. Our God is always moving and on the move. He is always inviting us to come along with him.
Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a wife and mother of eight children, and a disciple of the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales. She is an inspirational author, speaker, musician and serves as an Associate Children's Editor at Pauline Books and Media.