Up until just a few years, this bridge stood on the south end of our little town. My family wasn’t really the Interstate type, we preferred the meandering secondary roads with a view, so we crossed that bridge many times most every week. I love old bridges anyway, simply because of their character, but this one was really part of my everyday life for many years.
When word got out that the bridge was going to be replaced, I was heartbroken. I knew the boring concrete bridge that would take it’s place would be nothing special, it wouldn’t have a history, no stories to tell and nothing to make it unique. But there’s not much you can do to stop a major construction project, so I managed to make my way underneath it for a few photos just days before they finally tore it down.
Years later, I still miss the old bridge every time I cross the new one, just like I knew I would. What I didn’t know, is how much I’d love the new one. After a lifetime of having to slow down for the sharp, bumpy curve that led into the old bridge, the new smooth, gently sloping hill that leads to the new one feels like an airport runway. It makes me want to drive so fast that I’m sure my car could take flight if it only had some wings. I don’t…always…but it’s fun to think about. The bridge is fresh and modern, and if I’m honest about it, brings the entrance to our town into the 21st century instead of making us look like we’re stuck decades in the past. Not only that, but once it was replaced, along with another nearby bridge just a few months later, the highway into town was finally suitable for large trucks and other traffic that could bring some life into our little part of the world. I may not have wanted the change, but, as it so often is, it was something that needed to be done.
Change is never easy, and rarely any fun. But it is necessary. Progress is impossible without change, and sometimes, no matter how desperately we want to hang onto the way things are, we have to let go for the sake of moving on to something better. It’s a lesson we have all learned over and over through the course of our lives, and one we have learned to deal with because we had no choice. Change is just a part of life we must accept.
What I have discovered recently is, it’s not the change itself that is the problem. The real difficulties come from the way we react to the change, and the hardest part to deal with is the fact that, more often than not, we will not all react to the same change in the same manner. I had a hard lesson on this very thing this past weekend. I have been leading a small group for a couple of years now, a group of what I considered some of my closest friends, the kind of friends you can be real and raw with about anything and everything. We were very tightly knit, and an incredible source of support for each other. But change happened. Some found support in other places, some found it easier to focus on themselves rather than try to encourage others, and some just experienced life changes that kept them from the group. I will admit I was a little heartbroken to see the group fall apart, but I prayed and prayed about it and finally came to terms with the fact that it was time to call it quits. I wrote a message to the group to explain, took two days to actually have the courage to send it, and waited for a response.
The response never came. I won’t lie to you, it hurt. It hurt to know that something I had poured my heart into for so long, and struggled so hard with ending, apparently didn’t mean as much to the others involved. They had obviously moved on long before I did.
But here’s the deal. Just because they didn’t react to the change the same way I did, doesn’t mean what we had together served no purpose. It may not have benefited every one of us, but for a couple of us it was life changing and I can honestly say I’m not sure where we’d be now if it hadn’t been for the support of that group. It may not be the outcome I had hoped for, but if that was all that came from our time together, it was worth every minute. It mattered to us, but I can’t make it matter to the rest of them.
The next time you are faced with change, and you will be, don’t let your knee-jerk reaction of resistance be the whole of your response. Take time to consider it, mourn over the way it was, or the good ol’ days, if you need to, but waste no time in looking for the positive possibilities to come. Only you can decide to make the best of it. But maybe even more importantly, don’t let the reaction of others lead you to doubt the value of what used to be. Just because they don’t mourn what used to be, does not mean what you had didn’t meet a need or serve a purpose, even if just for a few people. Take time to be thankful for what it accomplished, and look forward with optimism. There’s something better to come.