Before the River Empties Into the Sea
I was born not long ago and came with such haste to where I am, not seeing, not
hearing, not touching or tasting all that I should have, not loving all whom I should have. Where
have they all gone? They have faded behind me into the fog along the river. I think it is not far
now to where the river empties into the sea. I will walk slowly from here and pay attention. I
will not pass by an open heart.
On NPR a few mornings ago, a psychologist cited a body of research indicating that we do
change somewhat as we age, and yet we tend to resist change. Ironically, we believe that at any given
point in our lives we have finally come to our true identity and that we will not change much in the
future. Yes, that sounds mostly true of us, being such self-contradictory dunderheads.
In graduate school, a professor told a group of us dunderheads that by the age of 30, he had
fundamentally established his identity and had never, in 35 years since, seen reason to change his mind
about much of anything. We should do the same, he said, by age 30. Even now, that admonition strikes
as a stupidity that only arrogance can produce.
We should not, of course, willy nilly allow ourselves to be “tossed this way and that by every
wind of doctrine,” but I reserve it as the right of Jesus alone to say, “It is finished,” at the age of 33 or
Do I fear change? Sure, like anyone. I fear something else far more: not changing, not being
better tomorrow than I am today. Well, all right, give me a little more time than that, please. I am a
slow learner. Nonetheless, I fear not becoming, and thus dying before I die.
I hope that I am and will always be becoming. I have so much still to learn. I fancy the idea of
dying in the middle of something . . . half way up a mountain, half way done with a wood project, half
way done writing a book, and still madly in love with all those I love now. I want my friends to see me at once as the familiar Kevin, yet also as the half stranger who has changed because he is still becoming.
After all, I am only 61.