November 05, 2013

Lesson 132: The Problem of Transition

Imagine you have just settled into your seat on an airplane. Your carry-on sits snuggly stowed above, your novel and crossword within reach, your bottled water opened, and your pillow arranged just so. You close your eyes, breath a sigh of relief and begin mentally preparing for take-off.

Suddenly, you feel a tap on your shoulder. "Ma'am (Sir), we apologize for the inconvenience, but we are going to need you to switch seats." 

How do you feel?

Slightly annoyed at the very least, but perhaps you feel something more intense, disorientation, irritation, frustration, anger, even embarrassment.

What's funny about a scenario like this is that you haven't even been in that seat for a very long time, and without realizing it, you've already begun to feel comfortable there. Your belongings are in order. You've met your seatmates. You feel ownership.

Then, out of the blue, someone comes along and makes you move. And you do not like it.

Hopefully this small mental exercise has given you a glimpse of what it feels like to be in transition. Transition is awkward ... transition is uncomfortable ... transition is hard.

Transition is also a reality. Life progresses, time passes, things change.

The variety of life transitions, experienced everyday, run the gamut. Consider a few situations.

You could be freshly out of college or graduate school, and for first the time in your life, you are not a student. You have to go to work. Be a big person! And it's different. It's not quite as much fun and it's definitely not as structured. You're confused about what your supposed to be doing with your time. You're confused about what you should expect for yourself. It's hard and it's awkward, and it's lonely.

You could be on the verge of or newly entering a marriage. It's exciting and fun ... and hard! At times, it's super awkward. You know that guy, but you don't really know him as a husband, you don't know how to be a wife, and it can be tense and confusing to merge two lives. Additionally, even though you've promised to love this person forever, other relationships have changed, so marriage can seem lonely.

Or, you could be a new momma. Which is not only awkward, but at moments is downright terrifying. There is a helpless, fragile, child who looks to you for every single thing. Who thought you were responsible enough for this job? Y'all, it is hard. It's scary. It's lonely.

These are just some snapshots of transition. Other periods of transition include a move to a new city, beginning a new job, sending children off to college, becoming a grandparent, retirement, loss of spouse, and so on.

Transition is essentially, my life used to look and operate a certain way and it just doesn't anymore. And to be honest, I'm a little lost.

As Christians, during such a time, we look towards God's word for guidance. But there's a problem. Where do you turn? There is no Parable of the Awkward Transition. You flip to your Bible's concordance, looking for the word transition trying to find a relevant passage. It's not there!

So is it over? Are we done? Does God's word have nothing to say to us about transition?

Well clearly no, or this blog post would be quite useless. However, we need to dig a little deeper to figure what is at the heart of the problem. What do all these various types of transition have in common? What is it about transition in general that makes it so difficult? 

I would suggest the reason transition is so hard is that the fundamental pillars in our lives, the things that define who we are and how we spend our time, change. There are four such categories: roles, responsibilities, relationships, and resources. (I swear the alliteration was not purposeful.)

Roles: In transition, your role, or your definition in life, changes. Consider the question: what do you do? Whatever the answer is, that is what changes during transition. So, you go from being a student to a working person. You are no longer a high power career woman, but a mom, at home, in your pajamas, with your baby. Your role in life changes.

Responsibilities: Along with a role change, comes a change in responsibilities, the work of your hands. As a high school student, your schedule is crafted for you. Suddenly, you find yourself with a thing called free time in college. How do you fill it? Or, you've worked for years at one job, going in every day knowing exactly what is expected of you. You transition careers, and now there is a long list of unfamiliar tasks. The expectations of singleness are different than those of marriage. In transition, what you are required to do, changes.

Relationships: Many times during transition, your relationships change. This is most obvious during a move to a new town. The people you interact with on a daily basis, from your neighbor to your deli girl, change. Similarly, the way you interact with people changes. You get married, and your relationship with your parents changes. In fact, it's Biblical for your relationship with your parents to change. You are to cleave to your husband, but that doesn't mean it's not hard. On the flip side, it is difficult for parents to let their children go. What does it mean to be an in-law? Consider another example. You and your best friend decide to take jobs in different cities. She's still be a trusted, close friend, but it is not the same as living the day-to-day together. This can be lonely and strange.

Resources: Finally, during a move or a time of transition, the resources available to you change. You get lost more. You don't know where to shop. You don't have trusted baby-sitting for your children. You don't know where to take your car when it breaks down. Simple, daily tasks take longer and are more complicated.

In summary, during times of transition, our roles, responsibilities, relationships, and resources change. I called these things, the big pillars in our lives. By that I mean, they are the things we rest upon, that fortify us, that help identify us, that keep us understanding our place, that make us feel secure.

Now, small changes are always occurring. Your 4th grade teacher is different than your 5th grade teacher, but the change is not that big of a deal What makes times of transition so dramatic is that a few or all of these major life pillars change drastically at the same time.

When this happens, when all of these things that have been holding you up change, you realize that none of them was ever actually able to keep you safe.

None of them were sustaining. None of them were ultimately reliable.

And this makes you scared. And not only does it make you scared, but you don't have anyone to talk to about it, because you aren't near any of your friends!

So, this is the problem. This is where we are. We are scared, we are lonely, we feel helpless, we feel confused, and honestly, I know personally during times of transition, I introvert and begin to feel a little crazy!

In tomorrow's post, I will open God's word with you and point you towards a passage that will demonstrate that God, the Lord, your Savior, does not change. He is who he is, he always has been, and he always will be. He is good, He is powerful, and He loves you. He is with you during times of transition, sustaining you, guiding you, and ultimately, he is working to make you into the person he desires you to be for your good and His glory. 

I do apologize for clearly posing the problem today without offering an in-depth explanation of a solution. I feel as if the post will become too long. So, I will leave you with the Scripture to meditate on for yourself. Come back tomorrow to have it exegeted with the problem of transition in mind. Hopefully, through God's grace, we will be able to work towards faith and experience peace in our crazy hearts!

Psalm 16
1 Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge. 
2 I said to the LORD, "You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing."
3 As for the saints who are in the land, they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight.
4 The sorrows of those will increase who run after other gods.
     I will not pour out their libations of blood or take up their names on lips. 
5 LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure.
6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; 
     surely I have a delightful inheritance.
7 I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.
8 I have set the LORD always before me. 
     Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure,
10 because you will not abandon me to the grave, 
     nor will you let your Holy One see decay.
11 You have made known to me the path of life; 
     you will fill me joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Translation from NIV 84.

Find Part 2 here.

Lesson Learned: Life is full of change. The LORD does not change.

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