Everything changes, doesn't it?
I know this with my head; it's something in my heart that resists it.
The Buddha said there are five processes over which none of us has any control…
Growing old is one. And, isn't that the truth? If you don't believe it, fetch the picture album off the bookshelf. But be prepared.
As for me, I need no reminders about age. My kids remind me almost daily. "Dang, Dad, you're old!" And, it's true. I got hair growing in places today that should have "No Trespassing" signs posted all around.
Then, there's the process of avoiding illness. Someone probably needs to tell the "faith healers." I think they missed this lesson from the Buddha. Heck, if you believed half the nonsense faith healers preach at their faith healing conferences, nobody would ever get sick or grow old. Much less, eventually die. Two of the "big name" healers who used to be on television every day, you don't even see anymore. I know why. I saw her in a newspaper picture not long ago. She was no longer the stunning blonde whose faith kept her from ever getting sick. Age finally caught up.
These faith healers all think illness is of the "devil" and that, if you get sick, it might not be your fault, but you'd better get over it pretty quickly, or admit something has gone bad wrong with your faith.
Then, of course, the Buddha said, "dying" is another one of those processes. But who wants to think about death?
He mentioned two more.
The decay of things is one.
Don't have to tell my wife, Pam, about this one. Damn, she can smell decay faster than a beagle hound can pick up the scent of an Easter bunny. She thinks the "Sell by" date on a pound of Ground Chuck means you'd better have cooked, eaten, digested, and defecated that burger before the "Sell by" date or you'll get the Shingles or, worse, come down with AIDS.
Then, as if the "decay of all things" didn't cover "all things," the Buddha said, "Oh, and there's one more process of 'impermanence' or change that's unavoidable…that is, can't be stopped…and that is…well…that is, EVERYTHING!"
Which is why you can be coasting along…holding a good job. Or, at least, a pretty good job, anyway. Not perfect but then, what is? The income's not bad and you've made a few friends and you all occasionally get together on Saturday nights and drink a few cold ones.
But then, all-of-a-sudden…for no gosh-darn reason you can think of…but, out-of-the blue, you arrive at work one morning only to find a pink slip on the desk.
It's over. Capoot! You're history.
Or, you're married…and, no, it, too, isn't perfect. But a hell-of-a-lot better than your next door neighbor's marriage. Why, there are times when you come home from work…at the job you used to have, anyway…and you can hear them screaming at one another from inside their house and you're still in your car, sitting in the driveway.
But then, one day, you come home only to find a note your spouse left on the kitchen table.
You should have trusted your instincts.
Then, there's the kids. You're going along as a parent and there are times you wonder if the day will ever come when they'll not need you? Then, the day comes when you wonder if the day will ever come when they'll ever need you again?
It's a gray, cold wintry day outside. The air feels lonely. Just how you feel at times.
Just how I feel today.
Have you ever had a friendship with someone and it was strong and filled with laughter and good times and you thought nothing would ever change?
But then it does. And you can't quite put your finger on why. But things just don't seem the same anymore. "It's their fault, of course," you say to yourself.
"You're the same person. They're the one's who've changed. Right?"
Don't you know, you've both changed.
So, what do you do? How do you cope?
That might be the wrong question.
The latter one that is. You do not learn to cope with change like learning how to put together the new "Infant Swing" you bought at Babies R Us. Change doesn't come with a "how-to" textbook.
Of course, you can always pretend, deny, or try, at least for as long as you can, to ignore the changes. But that's the sort of thing that causes people to do stupid things...
Like taking drugs to deaden the pain; to anesthetize themselves from it;
Or getting super religious so as to create all kinds of "Divine" explanations to make sense of the senseless changes you can't seem to make sense of otherwise.
You don't cope by not coping. You don't heal pain by postponing it.
I suppose there is only one way to peace…that is, if I understand the Buddha and, admittedly I might not. But I think what the Buddha suggested is not so different from what Jesus tried to teach us, too.
You only cope with life by living into it fully. Seeing it. Embracing it. Feeling it. Responding to it.
Jesus put it like this: "Be in the world; not of the world" (Jn 17:6-17)
In other words, live into it; don't get too attached to anything. Which may just be the hardest thing in the world to do. The danger is, you think "detachment" - emotionally distancing yourself from someone else; from something else; is what the Buddha meant.
"IT IS WHAT IT IS!" is the way folks put it today. Whatever they mean, it isn't what the Buddha meant. Not what Jesus meant either.
Detachment isn't disengagement.
In fact, it's is the opposite. It is to fully embrace the child and to fully let him go, whether that going comes naturally with childhood, adolescence, then young adulthood or that letting go comes in his or her unexpected passing…unprepared-for leaving.
Remember, for example, when Jesus was preparing himself to leave and the disciples asked him, "But where are you going? And, why can't we can't come with you?" (John 14).
For years, I mistakenly thought the John 14 passage…was all about Jesus declaring the start of a new religion and pointing to himself as "the only way to God." Lots of folks still mistakenly think that's what John 14 is all about.
I now think I was wrong. Grossly wrong.
It seems to me that, when Jesus talked about leaving them…going to another place…a place with many "rooms" - or, as some translations put it, "houses" and then he went on to say, "And where I go there you will be, too!"…
The disciples didn't get it. They seldom did.
We seldom do either.
These distraught disciples were suffering, as the Buddha would say, from a huge "CHANGE" they could see coming - the departure of Jesus. He was leaving them and some of them had just a few months before left everything - their careers, their families - to follow Him. Now, unexpectedly, he steps toward the boarding ramp, turns to his disciples and says his final goodbyes!
So, I can assure you, my friend, when you understand this context for Jesus' words...when you realize that the disciples were just as distraught at how to handle the changes of their lives as you are to handle the changes that come to you…then, you know that, when they asked, "Where are you going? Why can't we come? How will we know the way?"…you know that the LAST thing on their minds was, "What about the Hindus, Jesus? If they don't accept you as the only way to God, what will happen to the Muslims? To those who've never heard of you, Jesus? What about the Buddhists?"
No my friend. They were concerned about one thing only - THEMSELVES.
Same as you and me.
We resist change as if it were "Black Death" itself. And yet, the promise of Jesus is: "I am the way…you enter the Father by me" (Jn 14:6).
That's it! You enter the Father - the very place of peace in the middle of life's most perplexing changes, when, like Jesus…
…You don't run from your destiny;
…You don't deny the hurt this change has caused in you;
….You don't drug yourself into oblivion thinking a temporary fix is going to free you from the pain.
No, you cope by living, loving, feeling, laughing, crying, all the way into the changes of life. And, that, my friend is the way…the Jesus way…into peace.
Into the Father.