Someone who has changed my life: Caren Enloe.
She taught me more about life than I could begin to explain. I always enjoyed music, but Caren changed me. During the summer before high school, she offered me free trombone lessons and over the next 4 years, she invested her life into me and several other students. It was because of Caren that my enjoyment was transformed into passion and vocation.
There were 4 of us students: Matt, Stevie, Raj and myself. We all traveled in different crowds, yet she brought us together…showing us the value of community, diversity and teamwork. We played quartets together, auditioned together….and we became really really good… together. In fact, I’d say we were much better together than we were as individuals. And this taught me that when different people work together, their synergy creates a product far superior than any one of them could do on their own.
Caren took us on trips to concerts and conferences. She came to all our performances. She taught us. She fed us. She became a best friend, a confidant, a parent, a sister….all in one. In fact, I am not sure I would have made it through high school without her. And that is not to diminish anyone else in my life. Not at all. It just shows you how amazing she is.
Caren means tremendous amount to me… In fact, I was there the day her first child was born. And over the years I have realized that what she gives her children now is what she gave to me during my high school years…which proves how much she cared about me. And that realization has transformed the way I see her today.
I now realize how much Caren changed me. Yes, she change me because of our relationship, because of her investment in me. But more than that, Caren changed me because of one of the great secrets of life.
There is a TV show that my girls love: Girl Meets World (some might remember Boy Meets World from the 90s…starring Ben Savage as Corey and his soulmate Topanga played by Danielle Fishel. The show presented positive moral life lessons in a honest, wholesome and moving way. (Kinda like Fred Savage in the Wonder Years, but a more modern day program)
Girl Meets World picks up where the Boy Meets World left off. Corey and Topanga got married, had kids and now find themselves parents of middle and elementary aged children. They find themselves teaching their children, Riley and Augie, the lessons they learned from their parents, mentors, and friends.
An episode in the second season is titled Girl Meets the Secret of Life. The star of the show, Riley, and her best friends, Maya, Lucas and Farkle (great name right!) are changing, growing up…moving from the innocence of their young lives into young adulthood where things are not so easy, not so black and white, not so simple. As their relationships and identities are put through some trials during this episode, Riley father, Corey, guides them with a life lesson. He tricks them into working together in a way that causes them to see how their actions, attitudes, and feelings affect one another. And they – as in every show – discover a lesson: people change people.
Corey call this lesson the secret of life: people change people.
Now I have to admit that this show usually makes me teary eyed at the end. It is a little far fetched. But it presents life in a way that I would wish it for my children…the way the young folks learn, the depth of their insights, their authenticity, closeness, and commitment to one another. I pray my girls have those kind of friends and mentors. It just feels so good that it makes me cry.
And I feel the same way when I think back to the experiences and lessons I learned from people in my life like Caren.
I wonder who in your life has invested so much in you – like Caren did in me, like Corey did in Riley and her friends – someone who invested so much that you were changed? Think about it for a minute. I am going to ask you to say a name of someone out loud. Not to make you uncomfortable. But as a way of honoring that person. Could be a parent. Maybe he’s a friend. Maybe she’s a mentor. Maybe a teacher or colleague, a brother or sister. Maybe even your own child. Ok, got one person…
Now say the name…
People change people. Say the name again.
People change people. Say it One more time.
People change people.
Even Jesus and his disciples find themselves changed because of one another. They had been traveling together for quite awhile throughout Jesus ministry. All along the disciples had been listening to Jesus teachings, watching him heal people, following his commands…even being assistants in his miracles by feeding the crowds that gathered around him. And the gospels remind us quite often that the disciples don’t always get it….they never seem to fully understand Jesus’ teaching, never fully comprehend who he is.
But their is one day in this midst of their journey together, that Jesus and a few of his disciples are changed, transformed. Here’s what happened:
Jesus took Peter and the brothers, James and John, and led them up a high mountain. His appearance changed from the inside out, right before their eyes. Sunlight poured from his face. His clothes were filled with light. Then they realized that Moses and Elijah were also there in deep conversation with him.
Peter broke in, “Master, this is a great moment! What would you think if I built three memorials here on the mountain—one for you, one for Moses, one for Elijah?”
While he was going on like this, babbling, a light-radiant cloud enveloped them, and sounding from deep in the cloud a voice: “This is my Son, marked by my love, focus of my delight. Listen to him.”
When the disciples heard it, they fell flat on their faces, scared to death. But Jesus came over and touched them. “Don’t be afraid.” When they opened their eyes and looked around all they saw was Jesus, only Jesus.
Coming down the mountain, Jesus swore them to secrecy. “Don’t breathe a word of what you’ve seen. After the Son of Man is raised from the dead, then you are free to talk.” (Matthew 17:1-9, The Message)
Jesus, James, John and Peter were changed on that mountain in this mysterious event.
We do not often think about Jesus being changed. But that is exactly what this story says, literally, Jesus is changed, transformed, transfigured as most of your bibles will say.
Think about that: Jesus changes! How could that be, we might ask. Well, ask yourself: Would Jesus have been who he was without his disciples, his friends? Did he teach without them by his side? Did he perform his miracles without them nearby? No, he did not. He chose to minister with friends. And I have to believe that Jesus, was impacted by those friends because people change people. Even the son of God needed friends. And though we can speculate how things might have gone without the disciples by his side, what we know is this: they were there helping Jesus at every turn become the person he was meant to be.
The disciples are clearly changed as well. For one, the way they see Jesus is changed as his face begins to shine and is filled with light. And all of a sudden they see Moses and Elijah – a clear indication that these Disciples now realize the magnitude of who Jesus was and what he had come to do….to liberate people like Moses had done, to challenge earthly powers like Elijah had done
Jesus and his friends changed one another because people change people.
And I believe it is no coincidence that the disciples were led to Jesus, that we are led to Jesus. We can all use a little change now and then. Whether we need saving from one of the great storms of life. Or we need change from a dark path to a lighter, less burdensome path. Whether we need to be transformed from something holding us back.
And we have a great power to impact one another, to be that change. It’s a power that comes from the power of God’s love. You have that power right now…to impact someone else just like Caren, just like that group of friends on Girl Meets World, just like that person whose name you said aloud earlier. You may also need someone in your life right now with that power to nudge you towards something better, towards something good.
There is a musical that illustrates that kind of change. It is a favorite of many from 2003. It takes the ideas of good and evil represented through the old Wizard of Oz characters, Glinda the Good and the Wicked Witch of the West. It presents their backstory showing the inter-twinnings of their lives that is not so black and white as we might think from the original Oz movie.
There is a scene between these two women in which they discover the secret of life. That through their rivalry, their friendship, their ups and downs, and all the tension between them, that they had had a dramatic impact upon one another that changed them for the better, for good. And it is that kind of changed that we all need from time to time. It is that kind of friend that we all need in our lives.
And the one friend who will never fail to change you for the better is Jesus.
And though you may never meet Jesus in the flesh in this lifetime, though we have faith that we Will meet him in the next. But what I believe is that through one another we meet Jesus and are changed by him…because our love comes from His love.