Meeting in the New-ness of Now

August 5, 2022

I used to quip that my home town was a great place to be “from.” It seemed to me like a dead-end place. I couldn’t wait to spread my wings and travel to new places, meet new people.  

Unlike many teenagers, I was quite happy with myself in High School. I wasn’t part of the “in” crowd, but I had an identity in a large group of Christian friends. For my part I was pretty smug and self-righteous, and I imagined that everyone could see what a great Christian I was because I always smiled.  

I didn’t feel so complacent or smug in my first two years away from home, where I was unknown and misunderstood. For example, in that new situation at least one person thought there was something wrong with me because I smiled all the time.

Some of the smugness began to rub off with a few years away from home, buffeted by the waves of life. Life gave me the opportunity to grow an identity that fit with a growing understanding of myself and the wider world.

Then came our 25-year graduating class reunion. The courageous ones would be gathering: those who stayed at home and the larger number who left home.

Would I, because of expectations of others, find myself reverting to the persona of my 18-year-old self? Would I be able to recognize changes in my former classmates, and relate to them as their more mature selves? Or would I meet them with what some have called a “frozen evaluation,” without the perception that people do change and grow? 

Rachel Naomi Remen wrote: “Labeling sets up an expectation of life that is often so compelling we can no longer see things as they really are. This expectation often gives us a false sense of familiarity toward something that is really new and unprecedented. We are in relationship with our expectations and not with life itself.”

Expectations and frozen evaluations interfere with our ability to relate in the present moment to the person who is before us. Healthy relationships have given and continue to give each person space to change and grow.

We also have expectations and evaluations about who we are. Living into health and wholeness means growing comfortable in my own skin and believing I can become the person I want to be. I must be ready to choose a wholesome identity. It takes both vision and courage.

Today I have come home. I live in a community that is just like my home-town. That doesn’t mean that everybody is like me, or thinks and lives like me. However, I am able to be true to myself, and in my significant relationships I have space to continue to grow and mature.

Gratitude Prompt: Give thanks for family and friends who give me the courage and freedom to grow.

For an interesting summary of ways of perceiving others that interfere with good communication: