Transitions mean change. They are always challenging, sometimes painful. We want to hold onto the familiar and the comforting. The leeks and garlic of Egypt, all that sustained us in our past lives, beckon us. And no matter what our circumstances are at the moment, the one thing that seems obvious is that the future will be different and we need to adapt.
Change is usually marked by deliberate steps we take that say life is going to be different. Jesus marked his move into adulthood (at the age of 12) by staying behind in Jerusalem to ask questions of the religious leaders (Luke 3:46). He inaugurated his ministry with 40 days in the desert (Luke 4:2) and marked his transition towards the cross by a deliberate and determined walk towards Jerusalem (Luke 9:51). Jesus knew when it was time to say “Life is going to be different in the future, it is time to let go of the past and look towards the future.” He knew exactly how to prepare for those changes.
We are about to transition into a new season – in the church calendar out of Ordinary time, into Advent and Christmas, in the seasonal calendar out of spring into summer in the Southern hemisphere and autumn into winter here in the Northern hemisphere. Godspace is also going through transition as we say goodbye to Lisa and welcome to Melissa.
Many of you, I know are also transitioning into new stages in your lives. Some are returning to the workplace after a year spent at home. Others are starting new jobs, or facing the reality of loved ones you will never see again. Others are moving across the country or even across the world.
Whatever the changes we are facing transitions are never easy.
Transitions require us to identify the stability points that will not change.
The place to start as we face transition is not with – what is changing but what is not changing. What are the stability points that keep me strong throughout change?
Part of what I have reflected on over the last few weeks is the foundations of my faith in the goodness of God, the bedrock of my life that I know should not change. I need the security of knowing that not everything will change. I need to be able to stand firm in my faith as well as in my important relationships.
I wish we talked more about the stability of practice. Regular daily, weekly and yearly practices that restore our bodies, our souls and our spirits are essential for all of us especially during transition seasons and I don’t think we realize how much the loss of these impacts us. What are the practices that stabilize our lives as the world around us changes? How do we get ready for the winter blasts? What practices store up spiritual food for the dark seasons that always seem to accompany transition times?
Question: What do you need to hold onto that will strengthen your faith and beckon you towards God’s love?
Transitions require deliberate steps towards change.
It is easy to settle into the familiar patterns of the past and not consciously work towards the changes God wants us to make. Routines provide comfort for us and when they change we are often disoriented and destabilized. Suddenly there are lots of new options out there. We don’t know what we should do. It is easier to look back than to look forward. Deliberately working towards change is a very important and at times painful journey.
Question: What do we long for that we should let go of?
Transitions require the creation of new boundaries and new rituals.
When Tom and I stepped down from the leadership of Mustard Seed Associates about five years ago we embarked on a major remodel in our house. As part of that remodel I moved the desk in my office so that it is not longer the focal point. My space became first a sacred space and secondarily a work space. It was part of the transition, part of the establishing of new boundaries and new rituals and one of the best decisions I ever made. It provided a new environment that has become more precious over the years.
Then we went on a major trip for our 25th wedding anniversary, taking 6 weeks off to travel Europe, visit some of our favourite people and places and set boundaries around what had been and what was to come. We both came back refreshed, renewed and ready to start on new things.
As we face yet another major transition we are once more remodelling – this time our basement apartment which has hardly been touched since the 1970s. In the process we are losing a large storage room and so I need to throw out items I will never use again – clothes, boxes of material, old books, and who knows what else that is hidden in the recesses of that room. It’s painful but necessary and in the long run will be liberating.
Question: What changes may be necessary in your physical environment to prepare for the spiritual changes ahead?
Transitions mean listening
One of the hardest aspects of transitions can be the need to listen not just through our rituals and rhythms but also through our bodies and through the bodies of our companions. Our health, our age, our changing abilities and the changes going on in the lives of those we are responsible for – like elderly parents, children and grandchildren, friends and house mates – are all part of the reality of change. It’s easy for us to resent limitations when God is saying “embrace them”. We need to listen to such changes and accept the new boundaries they may impose on us as gifts from God. Sometimes we need to grieve for what we or our loved ones are no longer capable of. Sometimes we need to gain new perspectives on all of life.
Question: What change in your health or health of family members is a major consideration in your response to the transitions you are facing?
Transitions require space and time for dreaming new dreams.
Transition time is busy time. It is easy to fill our days without really thinking about the future. Sometimes the dreams that moved us towards transition seem to get lost in the process.
We need to take to time to breathe, to sit still and reflect. Clearing our calendars for a season, going on retreat, taking time to allow God to renew and refocus us is essential.
Question: What space is necessary for dreaming new dreams for the future?
Transitions require companions for the journey.
As part of our transition five years ago, I engaged with a new spiritual director and a life coach to help me move into this new season of my life. I also read a lot and sort the counsel of a broad array of friends and wise counsellors. I had lots of ideas that I think are from God but realize that I cannot move into the journey God has for me without help. Some of those ideas have been lost and will never be fulfilled, others are slowly coming to fruition.
As we head into transition again, I need to take time for the same kind of advice and discernment. We all need companions who can walk beside us, as well as those who can guide and help direct us into new seasons of life.
Question: Who are the companions and advisors that help you through transition?
Transitions cannot be rushed.
When I go through major transition season I always hope for a brief, though sometimes painful phase and then hope everything will settle down again without too much hassle. However I know from experience that transitions usually take months if not years It is easy to get impatient, to try to give birth prematurely. This is not a season to hurry through. The season between conception and birth is essential. It should be savoured and even after, there is a long and sometimes slow season of growth until maturity.
Question: How have we you to hurry the transition process and tried to give birth prematurely?
What is your response?
Sit and reflect on the transitions in your own life. What is God saying to you at this time that could help you through the days ahead?
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