Local Reading

Return of the Riff Raff…or Not?!

I recently drove through a suburb of Adelaide, the city in which I’ve lived most of my life. This suburb has undergone many changes over the past 5-10 years, and I was quite struck by them when sitting at the traffic lights; the manicured trees, modern shopfronts and overall ambiance of this once-shunned community. It is now a beautiful, safe and well-respected suburb that people frequent – on purpose! Going back just 10 or so years ago, this was not the case. It was a place of dereliction, the butt of all jokes, the suburb to be avoided.

It won’t last!
It is interesting talking with people about this change in the urban landscape. Many who grew up in the area dislike the changes and wish it had been left alone; sure, it was rough, but it was familiar. Others also recall what it used to be like and refuse to believe it is anything but that derelict, run down place. “Mark my words,” they say, “it won’t last long before the riff raff return, and you’ll see it is the same place it always was.” But then there are the new people, those who didn’t know the old and simply embrace it for all it now is. They are the ones who will be responsible for making this once-maligned suburb thrive.

Heart Choices
As I pondered these things I was suddenly quite aware of the similarities between the transformation of the urban landscape and the attitudes of people to those changes, and the transformation of my own life. I am not the same person I was 5 years ago; standing at a cross-road, rather broken and derelict of spirit, I needed to make a choice about where I wanted to be in the future. It was hard, but I saw the place I wanted to be, but to get there, I needed to make changes, especially in my social circles. I cannot lie, this change of social environments was difficult to navigate, but had I remained associating with some acquaintances at the time, I knew I would be travelling down a very different path to where my heart wanted to go. I needed to make a choice then, to create the world I wanted now, some 5 years later. The hardest part of change was leaving behind the old for the new. It can be a lonely time and many return to where they’ve left for fear of being alone, called foolish by the old, or perhaps rejected by the new.

Find our tribe
So, how do we keep on moving forward? We find our new people, those who don’t hold on to our old identity, or wait for us to fail and revert to old habits. We find our new tribe, those who welcome us as we are now. Those people with no preconceived ideas about who we are and no hang-ups about the old; our new is their familiar! It might be at a gym, a community group or church. A walking group, craft group or karaoke choir! The possibilities are endless and can be found anywhere from social media pages to Meet-Up groups. Sometimes their encouragement might feel hard. They will stretch us, draw us out and lead us forward. They will call us out of our comfort zones, but as we learn to trust them, we know they are safe and only want the best for us.

Life is always changing and people coming and going and grace must be at the heart of our relationships. This allows us to welcome the new with enthusiasm, let people go with our blessing, and discern when we need to do the same for ourselves. When we do this well, we have flourishing, thriving friendships in our lives that grow and show the true heart of God: love.

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