When Rodney and I first got married, one of the things I was most excited for him to experience, was the Bauer Family Beach Vacation. We had been going to the same spot since I was in second grade. Over the course of nearly twenty years, we’d accumulated some traditions. Our first year married was Rodney’s induction into the Bauer way.
There was the early morning boardwalk bike ride that ended at an old house turned restaurant and served chipped beef for breakfast—an underrated dish that needs a more marketable name.
There was the mini golf and funnel cake.
There was the Dairy Queen down the street.
There were paddleball tournaments and saltwater taffy.
There were New York Times crossword puzzles and endless hours of reading. So much reading.
It was bliss. And he adapted pretty well.
But then, a couple of years after we got married, my parents purchased a house about forty-five minutes away on the bay, and this house became the new destination for our summer vacations. The year after that, we had our first baby—the first grandchild on my side—and what felt like deeply entrenched traditions and way of doing things suddenly felt upended.
We packed paddleball for the beach. But it stayed in the bag.
We brought nearly a dozen books. But barely cracked their covers.
We made the forty-five minute drive to the boardwalk to rent bikes and eat at the house turned restaurant. But found the lack of air conditioning and difficulty of getting there less charming and more frustrating with a baby in tow.
And then, of course, there was the actual beach. Let’s just say it was a massive failure. The whole family headed down to the beach one morning, newly purchased baby tent in tow, only to be inundated with sand flies, a near wind storm, and a somewhat particular baby who would much rather be napping in a cool room with a sound machine and blackout curtains, as opposed to this piece of crap vinyl situation we had going on.
To say we felt defeated would be an understatement.
When I was in fifth grade, on the first day of school, my teacher pointed to a quote she had hanging above the chalkboard at the front of the room.
“Change is the Earth’s only constant,” it said. For a melancholy grade-schooler that was terrible news. It was even worse news some fifteen years later to this still melancholy personality, now new mom, who so desperately wanted to keep clinging to the way things used to be, I was willing to make myself and everyone around me miserable in the process.
Change may be the earth’s only constant. But for me, it’s also a constant source of angst.
The problem, as I learned in the first year of motherhood at the beach, is when we fight to maintain a death grip on sameness and tradition for sameness and tradition’s sake. It isn’t really helping anyone. And in some cases it has the opposite effect. It’s harmful. It can be like working to fit a square peg in a round hole. You can grit your teeth, furrow your brow and make the stinking thing fit. Or you can take a deep breath and acknowledge the obvious.
It’s time to let it go.
All of it. Expectations of what you hoped things might be like. Dreams of how you imagined things panning out. Visions of how the way things used to be would be carried forward to how things might someday be. Sometimes, the healthiest thing in the world is to let those things die. Not because they weren’t good. They were. For a time. They had a purpose. For a time. They brought a lot of joy, offered a lot of meaning and were exactly what we needed them to be. For a time. But we let them die because they aren’t serving us well as we head into the future. In fact, they are slowing us down and weighing us down.
In a passage found in the book of Matthew that has nothing to do with beach trips and parenting, Jesus was asked about why He and His disciples didn’t fast. The one asking was a disciple of John the Baptist, a religious zealot, and he was calling to attention the discrepancy in the behavior of John’s followers and the Pharisees, and Jesus and His followers. Maybe it wouldn’t have bothered him all that much, but John had made a pretty conclusive statement when Jesus had come on the scene. Something along the lines of, “You think I’m a big deal. Just wait. The one who follows me is the one we’ve been waiting for.”
And so when Jesus, the Messiah they’d been waiting for, makes a concerted effort not to participate in a religious discipline that had been practiced for centuries by those wanting to show their devotion to God, it draws some attention.
Jesus responds saying, “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”
Both are preserved.
In other words, to force what once worked and was good and helpful and useful and right into a time when something new is being birthed, not only hampers the new, it hurts the old. To preserve both—the memory and sacredness of the old, and the anticipation of the new—you need to let it be done when it is time to be done. And then welcome and initiate a new thing.
Lucky for us, new is God’s specialty. And so is beauty. Which means we can rest assured that in the things it is time to lay down, put aside and let die, there awaits a new thing with potential and possibility and wonder and beauty so spectacular only God can claim responsibility. And for that, we’re grateful.
These days, our beach trips are different. Sand buckets and plastic shovels take the space paddleball and books used to inhabit. We splash in kiddie pools and ride less waves. We’ve taken up crabbing and fishing off the dock at the back of the house. We found a donut place that doesn’t serve chipped beef, but will definitely suffice. We don’t spend hours in a beach chair allowing the incoming surf to bury our feet. But there is a little clubhouse on our new beach spot that serves $2 Bloody Mary’s. So we’re doing okay.
We are saying goodbye to the old, to allow room for the new. And we’re making it.
Change is the Earth’s only constant. And if that’s the way it has to be, it’s in my best interest to learn to look for the sacredness in the old, the beauty of the new and be okay with the passing of one for the sake of the arrival of the other.