By Matt Boness
Matt is a former member of the VU Faith&Community team and recently moved to Pittsburgh, PA with his wife of 7 years and their two toddler boys. His life was very unchanging for the first 23 years, having grown up in the mountainous regions of Arizona. Since that time, he has been on a roller coaster of major life transition. With two moves to significantly different cities, a wedding, a miscarriage, then two boys, half a dozen different jobs, and currently Matt spends his time working as a stay-at-home dad. None of which was anticipated or expected. He believes God has been faithful and community can be found anywhere you desire to look.
A year ago, my uncle was walking zig zag lines through the trees on his Southern Missouri property, drip torch in hand, laying fire into the dry, brown leaves as he walked. The fire began to consume more than the gasoline/diesel mix from his torch and grew larger, consuming the dead leaves, branches, grasses and plants that had previously claimed residence there.
The pyrotechnic inside me gawked at the fact someone, anyone, could intentionally put fire on the ground and just let it go. I grew up in Northern Arizona and you just didn’t do that. That was the easiest way to go to jail for burning the forest down. But, Missouri is different.
It makes me think about my previous home of 20+ years and my home in Missouri since 2013 and how much has changed. To name the obvious, state, city, house, I gained a wife, two kids, and multiple jobs, the experience that comes with it, new friends, new church, just about new everything except a few t-shirts that I dragged along with me.
Change is hard. Let’s call it what it is. It’s inevitable and for many of us, inevitably hard. I came to Missouri without a job, without knowing anyone, never having stepped foot in Columbia. I went through two years of hating it. Two years of struggling to love a place and a life that I accepted, but didn’t feel a part of. I was routinely asked, “Why Missouri?” when I braggadociously gave up my previous home locale which only made me doubt the decision even more. I struggled with the change. I’m a very routine oriented person and change doesn’t always sit well with me if it I don’t fully choose the change I seek.
And then I stopped comparing apples and oranges. Arizona is Arizona. It’s desert. It’s dry. It’s mountainous in parts. It has a proper monsoon season. No tornados. Lot’s of open space to get lost in. Missouri is none of that. It rains a lot in Missouri. Things grow like weeds whether you want them to or not. There are big rivers, high bluffs and farms dotting more of its land than homes. You can light fire with a drip torch in March and not worry about it getting out of control.
Change is like wildfire. It burns, stings, blackens, chokes with smoke, burns the green grass and then rejuvenates the landscape. My uncle didn’t burn his land (only) because it was fun. He did it so that the seeds, grass, trees and shrubs would grow more healthy, more sturdy and create a better environment for the plants and animals that reside there. The landscape needs the fire to thrive and similarly, we sometimes need change for our lives to rejuvenate.
The change of a lifetime living one place for a brand new place unlike anything I knew helped me grow. It helped me appreciate that Missouri was not Arizona. I began to see what I had been missing by trying to compare and dare I say, I started to enjoy it. Love it even. I found lifelong friends. I found a job I loved. Even the oppressive heat stricken summers began to grow on me. I can confidently and assuredly defend the Midwest for its positive qualities whereas before I would fall into the chorus of “flyover” country being as worthless as the moniker makes it sound. It’s not.
The consumption of change, like fire, rid my life of many things I had let reside for too long. Luckily, we took the chance to fully uproot our lives and allow the new things, experiences and people to sprout in their place; of which our new habitat and environment is healthier and we are more able to grow.
Change is hard. Change, however, is usually temporary. Temporary until we fall into a new normal which then becomes normal and everyday and routine. The challenge is to find how change has refreshed and reinvigorated your life and maybe when change happens again, it’s not so terrifying knowing that you are becoming a more healthy version of yourself.