When I first started high school my two elder brothers, Christopher and Michael, were already there. It was a rather old-fashioned school, and we were called by our surname. “Come in Tristram,” the teachers would say. With three Tristrams in the school that could sometimes be confusing. So to distinguish us, rather light-heartedly, Christopher was referred to as Tristram. He was the oldest. Michael was known as Tristram Minor. Then I arrived. I was to be Tristram Minimus – which I didn’t much like!
That stayed with me over the years at school. I think it so often happens – in a family or a community – that although you have grown and changed, others still see you as you were, or remember something you once did, and still define you in those terms. And we want to say, “I’m not that anymore – I’ve changed. Haven’t you noticed?”
It was quite a liberation to leave school and go to university where no one had met Tristram Minimus – but only Geoffrey. Like the lobster which grows and changes and needs to burst out of its old shell, it felt wonderful to make a new beginning, changed from a school boy into an undergraduate.
“To live is to change. And to be perfect is to have changed often.” Famous words of John Henry Newman. They reflect one of the great inner dynamics of the Gospels, which is Christ’s call to each one of us to change. It is not always welcome; it’s not always comfortable; it’s not always easy, but like it or not, if we refuse to change we will die. That goes for us as individuals, and for us as Christian communities. “To live is to change. To be perfect is to have changed often.” Continue reading