by Father Mark Goldasich
Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes . . .
That chorus from David Bowie’s single “Changes,” from January 1972, has been floating pretty regularly in my mind the past month. That’s not really too surprising since the weeks after Easter are usually a time of transition for many people. It’s the days of first Communions, graduations, weddings, the beginning of summer vacation, retirements, and the soon-to-be-announced new priest assignments.
Bowie’s melody was especially strong the week after Easter when I took a few days off to head up to Iowa City, Iowa, to see a college friend of mine perform in a play there. It had been about 35 years since I’d seen Nancy in person, so I was a little bit nervous. Well, I needn’t have worried. In fact, another college friend, Mary Jo — now a professor at Central College in Pella, Iowa — also made the trip to Iowa City, turning the time into a mini- reunion.
One snippet of dinner conversation may explain why Bowie’s song has stuck with me. All was going well, until Nancy said, “Remember, Mary Jo, when we used to call Mark ‘Goldy,’ since he used to have all of that blond, curly hair?”
“Yes,” said Mary Jo, “and he used to be a lot shorter…“
“And thinner,” chimed in Nancy.
OK, you get the idea. I had to quickly stop this disastrous trip down memory lane. Now, I would have been really devastated if all of those comments were said without smiles and a teasing gleam in my friends’ eyes.
Certainly, we had all changed.
Although we did spend time reminiscing about our college days, we didn’t stay in the past. We resumed our friendships as if there had only been a momentary pause in them, not the space of three decades. We visited about where life had brought us, our successes and failures, our families and our work, and what our hopes and dreams for the future were. I came away from Iowa City, aware of changes, but grateful for longtime, supportive friends.
By the way, there’s disagreement about what exactly the lyrics are in the chorus of “Changes.” After that stuttering opening come the words: “Turn and face the _____.” Many fill in the blank with “strain”; a few contend the word is “stranger”; and some, citing an interview with Bowie himself, insist that it’s supposed to be “strange.” No matter which word is correct, all are appropriate.
First and foremost, we’ve got to come to grips with the fact that we can’t outrun or avoid change; it’s going to happen. With that in mind then, it’s good to turn and face it, as the song suggests. Initially, what we will see will be either a stranger or something strange. And that will no doubt be a strain to our comfort level and maybe even trigger some fearfulness. The good news, though, is that all these feelings are fleeting.
Our tendency when facing change is to lament all the good and familiar things that we are leaving behind. However, change can also be a time to pursue new adventures, meet new people, discover new gifts about ourselves, and take a step closer to the dreams that we hold in our minds and hearts.
As you turn and face the changes in life, do so with a prayer. This portion of one from our own Father Ed Hays, found in his “Prayers for the Domestic Church,” is ideal:
“Blessed are You, Lord our God, who gives spice to life with change.
We thank You especially now for the gift of change, that gift of newness that opens doors closed by habit and routine.
We thank You, O End of All Longing, for the capacity for change in our lives, for without change, there can be no real growth and no true life.
We are thankful for Your Son, Your Sacred Word, who spoke to us of new wine for new wine skins and who calls us daily to a new kingdom and to a new covenant.”
Whatever change is for you — strain, stranger, strange — face it in confidence with God’s grace . . . and with good friends.