Have you seen the movie The Lion King? The characters are lovable, the songs are catchy, and the story is metaphorically relatable. Walt Disney produced a movie to not only entertain an audience, but to also share wisdom about real-life experiences such as growing up, surrendering anxieties, forgiving and receiving forgiveness, and pursuing a destiny.
When I recently rewatched the movie, I was struck by a scene which reflected my personal experience as a newlywed. In the context of the film, Rafiki, the baboon whose character is as colorful as his face, has encountered young-adult Simba. Rafiki is hoping to convince Simba to return to the pride land--the home where he would be King if not for the evil manipulation of his Uncle Scar.
In their conversation, Simba curiously looks into the sky and says, “Looks like the winds are changing.”
Rafiki responds, “Ahh, change is good.”
In an honest reply, Simba says, “Yeah, but it’s not easy.”
There is a dance in the tension between “both” and “and.” Both Rafiki and Simba. Both good and hard. Both joyful and painful. Both triumphant and agonizing. Both glorious and sacrificial.
When I approach the personal and circumstantial changes which have accompanied married life with the conviction that change is only supposed to be good—as fruitful and enjoyable—I create unrealistic expectations. I expect myself to adjust to a new environment with a level of gracefulness, simplicity, and ease that nears perfection; therefore, making a mistake or asking for help is a sign of failure. In this half-true perspective, I am overwhelmed by my constant mistakes, I am frustrated in my insecurities, and I bring tension into my marriage.
Can you relate? Do we allow ourselves to admit that change is both good and hard?
By shifting my perspective and embracing this whole truth, I become more gentle with myself. I align my will with what is good, and I simultaneously recognize the limits of my human capacity when the circumstances are hard. When I am at peace in understanding perfection is not possible, I accept tender affirmation and encouragement from my husband without denying his kindness. I grow in the fruits of the spirit.
Sisters, it is okay—freeing, in fact—to admit when something is just plain hard. All the while, our attitude can be both confident and humble; confident that, “I can do hard things,” and humble to say, “I can’t do this alone.” The honest and humble heart creates space for God to guide the way.
Consider how the season of engagement proclaims, as Simba says, “the winds are changing.” As we recall from Scripture, “A man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body.” Marriage prep classes and wedding planning are visible signs of the active journey of two becoming one—a journey which continues for many years. Throughout those years, husbands and wives will be faced with innumerable new circumstances, transitions, and opportunities for change.
Saying I do is like dropping a rock in a pond and the resulting changes in our lives are the waves which ripple from the impact.
The ripple effect of external changes in married life could include moving to a new house or city, making new friends, creating different routines, establishing new hobbies and schedules, having a baby, sharing spaces and materials with your spouse, eating different foods, etc. The list goes on and on and is ever-changing with the seasons of our lives.
These adjustments, as simple as some may be, are both good—in the way they are a part of sharing a life together—and hard—in the demand for selflessness, virtue, discomfort, and surrender.
In addition to the external adjustments, our hearts undergo a transformation as well. Marriage requires a thousand deaths so we may grow together anew. By its nature, death is painful. Yet submitting to death-of-self, as a free and faithful act of holy love, is affirmed by God’s grace and supported in good community. Both good and hard. As we grow in self-awareness, intimacy with God, and intimacy with our spouse, we can enter more deeply into the trinitarian unity our hearts desire.
God knows every detail of the transitions in our lives. His grace will shine through each circumstance in a unique way. Do we trust his wisdom and glory? Or are we distracted by unfulfilled perfection and seemingly-useless suffering? The attitude and perspective we choose in each experience shapes our lifelong journey to holiness and our relationships with others along the way.
As we are honest with ourselves, we can be more gentle with ourselves. These attributes—honesty and gentleness—are not signs of carelessness or complacency, but of faithful cooperation with the Father of Mercy.
There will certainly be days when we have to dig deep, work hard, or push through temptation to accept certain changes in our lives. There will be days when we are surprised by joy and overwhelmed with the peace and freedom of change. Regardless of the emotions of experience, the truth echoes from the words of Rafiki and Simba, “change is good, but it is not easy.”
Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Is God calling you to practice more honest self-talk? Does he yearn to offer you healing in the Sacrament of Confession? Does he want to show you the freedom in surrendering your expectations for perfection? In what new circumstance does God want to shower you with his mercy? Journey deeper with him this liturgical season to experience both the pain of the crucifixion and glory of the resurrection as we fulfill our vocations to love.