“I’m glad you’re willing to try new things,” a friend said as we kayaked across the lake at her cottage.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“So many people our age won’t try new things,” she said.
It was my first visit to her cottage and just before we got into the kayaks, I had learned to paddle board.
I think I come by it naturally. My mother, at ninety years old, is still trying new things. She tries new recipes, new card games, new stores, and she wants to get a rain barrel. I love that she continues to be open. Trying new things—like learning to kayak and paddle board in my sixties—does not seem so unusual to me.
Being open to new things is also part of my spiritual life. “I am doing something new,” God promises in Isaiah 43:19, and Jesus invites us to change direction time and again. Think of the apostles who were living their lives and then changed course or of St. Paul and other holy people throughout the ages. The openness to hear God’s voice and move in a new direction is one of the hallmarks of the spiritual journey.
My life has undergone so many changes in the past five years, and I can’t say it has always been easy to embrace the new. But God keeps inviting me to be open, to let go of the past and move into a new future. Trusting that God is with me through it all makes accepting and adapting a bit easier. Letting go of expectations of how things “should be” also helps.
Still, it can be scary to step into the unknown and to feel vulnerable and uncertain. I think my paddle board lesson offers a good model, though, for moving into the future.
I started in shallow water with someone holding the board. First, I knelt on the board and paddled around a bit to get a feel for it. Then I stood and found my balance. I paddled in the shallow water first and then venture further out.
Starting out small and building confidence makes the change easier.
Of course, not all change is voluntary. Aging brings about physical changes that can be difficult to accept—failing eyesight, less stamina and the effects of gravity, to name a few. Disease or disability can also cause changes and present challenges. Not all of “the new” is positive; God does not say it will be.
I think that practicing a willingness to try new things sets up an openness to change that can help when the involuntary changes happen. When brain cancer limited my friend Jim’s use of his right hand, he said, “I guess I’ll become a lefty.”
Being unwilling even to try anything new results in missed opportunities. I am not advocating recklessness (like sky diving or extreme sports), but rather an openness to experience whatever new God is presenting.
Once I get the hang of it, I just may try paddle board yoga.