Ever been in labor or near to someone giving birth? If so, you know that the whole process would be much nicer without the stage known as transition. It’s the most intense, demanding and productive part. Hard? Yes. Necessary? Absolutely. New life will not emerge without transition.
What’s true during our initial entry into life continues as we mature; times of transition are some of the most difficult, challenging and potentially prolific periods of living. If we’re unwilling to endure them, we’ll stay put and never progress down the narrow channel that leads to maturity.
Times of transition are not usually fun or easy. They take effort and require flexibility. They’re often messy and uncomfortable. Even the simple act of decorating for Christmas, Thanksgiving or Easter takes time and trouble. Although I like the final outcome, the in-between phase of boxes, mess and clutter make me irritable. Some years I’m tempted to skip the whole process.
What about transitions that are not optional? Like the unexpected death of a spouse, a job change, moving, loss of health, unemployment, or a surprise pregnancy? Life is full of situations that require us to change, to move from one set of circumstances to another, to adjust ourselves to something new. Sometimes it’s exciting, other times it’s unwelcome.
The only thing unchanging about change is that it changes us. For good or bad. Most of us don’t want change and we don’t like change, but boy-oh-boy do we need to change. Self-righteousness and selfishness are woven into us as deeply as our own specific DNA. Relinquishing those tendencies for more Christ-like attitudes happens to be hard because it happens when life is hard. God’s grace enables us to embrace, not simply endure uncomfortable shifts in our lives. Trials and transitions offer us the opportunity to be transformed, to become more than we thought we could ever be.
Consider the period between teenaged Joseph receiving a God-given dream and actually ruling around the age of thirty. Those were not easy years. And David—the gap between shepherd and king was filled with fear and desperation as he fled from Saul. Could Joseph or David have ruled with wisdom without those intense struggles? What they learned about the Lord during their times of transition prepared them for the very roles God had ordained for them.
Viewing periods of transition as the pause between good and better, as our friend and not our enemy, enables us to see even the difficult times as pivotal moments when our life’s course can move from stagnant to fluid. Jesus said it best. “I tell you the truth, a grain of wheat must fall to the ground and die to make many seeds. But if it never dies, it remains only a single seed” John 12:24 (New Century Version).
If our goal in life is to remain as we are, we will. Longing to stay put and stay safe, places us in danger of missing the very life God has prepared. Letting go of what we know opens our heart and hands to receive the new life the Lord has in store. When we feel out of control, it’s because we are. That’s okay, because God says being in control is His job. He has been where we are going and we are simply to follow Him.
The first time I gave birth I learned there’s no way to op-out of transition. Back then natural childbirth was the rage, and boy did I rage when the contractions hit back-to-back. Fed up with systematic breathing and being told to “relax,” I simply wanted to stop the roller coaster and get off. So when the next contraction tightened its grip, I didn’t even attempt to control it but let it take over. Pain pulled me down into a dark, excruciating pit. Completely out of control, I sank into swirling panic.
Then, into that frightening place, I heard someone shout my name. I opened my eyes to see my young husband peering at me. He held my gaze, gripped my shoulders and commanded, “Breathe! Hee, hee, hee, hoe.” I did.
Suddenly, I wasn’t drowning anymore. Someone who loved me was right there to take my hand and lead me through the deep waters, to help me keep my head up, to show me how to breathe. When I obeyed his voice, I found safety.
During times of transitions, those we choose and those that choose us, it helps to know we’re not alone. God Almighty promises to be with us. So, take His hand, let Him take the lead, and take comfort in His promise, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you” (Isaiah 43:2A NIV).
Posted on February 28, 2012 in Reflections on Life