Years ago Carole King sang “I feel the earth move under my feet.” The other day I was telling a dear friend that there are so many changes taking place in my life and the lives of those around me that I literally feel as though the ground is giving way – – – that it is shifting right under my feet.
I’m not even talking about life’s major “shifts”: a scary health diagnosis, an unexpected job loss, distress in a marriage, the death of a loved one, relationship troubles, child-rearing challenges – – – you know, the really big things we unfortunately face as life trudges along. These are the events and circumstances that without a doubt cause our footing to stumble, give out, slip, fall, even crash and shatter into a thousand pieces. These difficult “shifts” are expected to cause great heartache, concern, trepidation and loss. They are the moments we feel the ground beneath us has not merely “shifted” but has literally fallen completely away. Crumbling, crumbling, gone!
No, I’m talking about the simple process of life moving forward with life. The ordinary days that beget ordinary days that line up to produce the often predictable and commonplace pace of life. Yet, it’s in that mundane, regular, even expected and anticipated journey through our lives that these simple “shifts” sometimes create feelings deep down in our bellies of “life is moving forward and it is changing as it should be, but I’m not really ready for it to proceed and nothing is really wrong but I would really rather not have anything in my life change, I want those I love to stay young and close and the people dear to me to never leave me and my children to grow, mature, develop and be successful and happy just so long as they can stay here with me and for everyone to always be grateful and thoughtful and kind and for things at home, at work, at school, at church to just keep the status quo or only change just so nothing or no one that has a direct effect on me really changes but just keeps on sweetly, steadily, chugging along – – – – just like always!” And in those regular, simple, tiny little steps forward of life – – – our hearts give a tremendous lurch – – – because we begin to ever so greatly feel the slightest “shift.”
I’ve seen it around my dinner table – – – to me, the most precious spot in my home. I’ve had hundreds of people of all kinds – – – different ages, religions, races, ethnicities, socio-economic statuses, boys, girls, men, women – – – some I hardly knew – – – some the dearest people in my life – – – sit around and enjoy a meal or conversation together. Many have passed away, moved away, grown away and some have just simply gone away – – – everyone unique in their own way – – – each one adding to the story of my family’s life.
Now, if I had my druthers, the ones I love the most would never, ever, ever venture away from my table. The gear shift of life would be stuck in the “park” position for as long as I wanted.
But that isn’t reality – it isn’t even close to the best plan. Life’s gear shift was meant to be in drive! Hence, the unsteadiness and uncertainty and change. Life is precarious and precious. It is meant to shift and transform – move forward and expand. We have to react and proceed with the shifts of life in order to move forward to the places and positions we were meant to be.
How is this “shifting” painted onto the canvases of our lives?
In the coming weeks many little ones will head off to Kindergarten for the first time. Many older ones will move into their college dorms with bright and unknown futures. There will be a “shift” around the dinner table, in the morning routines, in weekend plans and bedtimes. There will be smiles and tears and more tears.
Some will experience shifting as their families grow – – – adding little ones or in-laws. These “shifts” are joyous – – – but they mean changes (shifts) in relationships, priorities, statuses, positions, schedules. Some of these resulting shifts mean giving up some control, or time, or “superior” places in the lives of the people we dearly love. There are others to consider and other considerations. Shift. When there’s a slight change – even a sweet, happy one – our footing can feel unsure, the road a little less even. The certainty and steadiness we used to casually presume has slightly been altered. Those little proverbial sands under our feet are moving, albeit almost undetectably. But they are. Little by little we feel them slipping away. Shift.
I’ve moved away from dear, dear friends and dear, dear friends have moved away from me. All of our moves have been for advancement either personally, educationally, professionally or for the cause of Christ. Missing them has been difficult at times. Shift.
I’ve taken for granted a thousand conversations held face to face; little hugs and big ones; hours and hours spent driving back and forth; shopping until dropping; changing beds and switching gears. Friends who passed and waved do not cross my paths easily or readily because life has moved them away – – – to better promises and purposes. Shift.
Then there are the little, often inconsequential things that don’t cause shifts in themselves, but collectively can cause us to alter our paths and our outlooks and perceptions – just a little. An unkind word . . . a forgotten act . . . a little tiff . . . ingratitude . . . an altered plan . . . Shift!
I could try to reach down and scoop up life’s sands as they shift from beneath my feet, but they’d slip through my fingers almost as soon as I can gather them.
And anyway, do I really, truly want the shifting to stop? Do I want to be stuck in park or neutral or, worse yet, be heading in reverse or watching my loved ones do the same? Not at all! To “shift” is to live, love, learn, grow, fall and get back up, forgive, experience adventure, enjoy life to the fullest and most of all, fulfill the grand purpose and design the Creator has employed in forming me, my family, friends and others who come and go in our midst.
When life “shifts” it is important to remember Who does not! God does not! He is as sure and secure and steadfast in the minutes and moments leading up to the “shift” – – – be it a big one or little one, even an imperceptible one – – – as He is in the seconds and years following it.
There is a sweet, steadying, rock-solid truth in James 1:17: “ Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” He who made us and guides us and loves us holds us securely – – – even when the sands are shifting or the ground below us is seemingly giving away.
The words of “On Christ the Solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand” are to be trusted and grasped and held onto. It is a truth that won’t slip through our fingers as we bend to try to gather the shifting sands of life into our own powerless hands.
He’s already counted and gathered the grains of sand in our lives. He’s holding them steady in His grasp and for His plans and purposes even as they seem to be shifting and slipping away from ours. He created them, He can handle them. He can control them – – – the shifting can only go as far as He allows or needs.
And when the ground is rumbling underneath so that it is not only shifting but actually giving way, remember the amazing words written by Jude: “Now unto him what is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.” (v. 24-25 KJV)
Our lives were not meant to be lived in “park” or “neutral” as much as sometimes we wish they would be – – – they were meant to be lived in an ever-shifting state of drive and motion – – – proceeding forward even if it feels we may be heading off the path that we have laid out in our own hearts and minds.
Thought to Ponder: Are the “shifts” of life, big ones or small ones, overwhelming you? Are they altering your perceptions and outlooks on your life? The life of your family? Your friends? Are you stuck in park or neutral and not allowing the God who created you along with His plans and purposes for your life and the lives of those you love to move you forward even if the path seems unsteady and unknown? Can you allow yourself to be secure and joyful in the “shifts” knowing they are within His absolute control?