Give it Time: Transition and Transformation

Everyone I know is in transition.

Friends are transitioning from parenting to empty-nesting. My adult children are transitioning from school to the workforce, from singleness to marriage, from one child to two. My parents are transitioning from independence to dependence. And me? Still transitioning out of the parking lot.

We want transitions to be smooth, quick, and easy, like on-ramps to the next stage of life. They usually aren't.

All of these transitions look different. Some, we saw coming and started planning for. Some blind-sided us. Some we hoped to put off longer. As we describe our transitions, our voices twist with frustration, longing, anxiety. And I ache for us all, because we all want the same thing. Stabililty.

Stability. Yet we’re in flux, changing. Instability is “in.”

We all want our transitions—whether expected, unexpected, or inevitable–to be the same: quick, smooth, and easy. A brisk walk down a short hallway to an open door. A gentle turn guided by a crisp British GPS voice: “The destination is on your right. Arrived.” We want to steer, we want to control the speed, and we don’t want any bumps along the way.

Most of all, we want it to be over.

But transitions serve a bigger purpose than to merely come to pass.

Transitioning Well

Recently a good friend, whose purposeful life has always inspired me, lamented, “I have not transitioned well.”

Mouth open, staring, I didn’t know how to reply. I wondered, “What does ‘transitioning well’ look like?”

Is it a series of neatly checked-off boxes on a transition plan? Sometimes it looks that way. (Especially to an onlooker, unaware that each step required a blast of courage followed by a good, long nap.)

Is it an effortless hop, skip, and a jump from Life Stage A to Life Stage B? Don’t we wish.

Isn’t it more often a foggy journey, beset with stops and starts . . . a trek through transformation?

Oh, no. Not that. Please…

Transition Means Change

Fact: We will not emerge from our transitions the same as when we entered them.

An obvious fact, but a fact we fight. Change is hard, and we don’t like hard.

Yet hard can be good. Ask my little chicks.

I watched them hatch in our incubator. It was all I could do not to lift the lid and help peel the shells off those struggling baby birds. In the morning, they cheeped at me through tiny holes they had poked in their shells. By afternoon, scrawny, bedraggled chicks flopped about on feet they had never used before. By evening, they were photogenic and fluffy, little yellow heralds of springtime.

They survived their transition—and were strong and healthy because of its challenges.

How might we transform during our transitions? Will our focus change, or a new passion arise to compel us into a new field of action? Will we break our bondage to old habits, old possessions, old ideas and go on to live free? Will an imposed necessity give birth to invention?

Let’s give transition time to transform us.

Transitions, like a chick hatching, need time to transform us.

The Best Path Through Transition

As a Christ-follower who has faced lots of transitions, I have leaned hard on this promise from John 16:24– “Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full.”

I have learned God delivers on that promise. But sometimes I have come to God asking for things, held out my hand, and received something other than the neat, tidy answers I had hoped for. What’s up with that?

In Luke 11:5-13, Jesus explained about asking and receiving. There’s a big, hearty promise in the middle of the passage: “ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”

But on either side of that promise are parables that make me uncomfortable. In the first, God sounds like a grudging neighbor who will only give you what you ask for if you persist long enough to annoy Him. In the second, He seems just one step above human fathers, who merely know better than to give their sons scorpions instead of eggs to eat.

Those parables, however, explode into fireworks of revelation when held up to what God does give us when we ask (verse 13):

“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”

Wait, I didn’t ask for the Holy Spirit. I asked for something specific, like wisdom or material needs or…

Yet Jesus is saying that, over and above all the little specifics I think to ask for, my Father is going to give me the best possible gift: Himself.

Look at what God’s Holy Spirit delivers:

All of us redeemed ones who persist in asking our heavenly Father for help through our transitions find we are knocking on an open door. The Holy Spirit is already working to build into us the transforming qualities we will need for the next task, the assurance that God has an eternity-centered purpose for this transition, the strength to walk with Him into the challenges ahead, and the promise that He will disclose God’s wise (and specific) answers.

Give Transition Time

I think my friend is transitioning better than she thinks she is. She keeps asking. She keeps seeking and knocking. And she is keeping her eyes open. Because the answers are coming.

We have God’s Spirit on it.

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10 thoughts on “Give it Time: Transition and Transformation

  1. this is great, Karen. Loved the part about the ‘confusion’ with some of the verses about God having to be annoyed with us before answering. I’ve wondered about that one! Have a great weekend! Blessings to you and yours, Kim

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    • Thank you, Kim. I’m glad this was helpful to you, my friend! This brief touch on the subject of answered prayer reflects long wrestling with God over it–like Jacob wrestling with the angel of the Lord in Gen. 32:24-31. I’ve come to this: I completely trust in His goodness, and being unable to completely comprehend what He comprehends, I will sometimes be puzzled by His loving answers. But He will answer, and it will be good.

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  2. Karen,
    This was an excellent observation of, and reflection on, transition. I particularly like the thought “unaware that each step requires a blast of courage followed by a long nap”. So true. You are an excellent writer! Best, Denise

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    • So glad to hear this, Denise. I’m sure you see a great deal of transition in your work with folks in our community. As people make individual steps toward change, I hope we can affirm their courage in doing so. And give them time to take naps! (Thanks for your kind compliment, too.)

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  3. Thank you, my dear. It’s almost as if you were writing to me personally. 🙂 This good word is something I will keep.

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    • It’s surprising how a friend’s simple comment can radiate outward and touch many lives. 🙂 The one remark I mentioned has been ringing in my ears all week. I could have listed dozens of additional examples of people I’ve encountered “in transition” just since I heard it. Clients at my pregnancy help center, ladies at Olivia’s House of Hope, long-lost college friends contacted at last through LinkedIn, and many more. It’s a timely topic. But I’m especially glad these thoughts encouraged you, my friend.

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  4. Dear Karen: I have known you for all of your life -literally! Yet I am always amazed how your words flow from your heart and with God’s leading. I praise Him for you and the influence you portray so beautifully in His name. I am so proud of you as God has embellished your life with all of His Love and understanding through many trials and tribulations! Being your mother has been a tremendous blessing through all of these years – especially now as your dad & I are going through the “Transitioning Phase”. We love you dearly and continue to pray for God’s blessings as He leads you daily! Mom

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  5. They say one is truly your friend in as much as they push you closer to God. Thank you for always reminding me of what’s really important,and of what I have available to me in Christ .I’m going to take your words to heart and try to live out these difficult times of transition,while still carrying a song in my heart and a smile (albeit wobbly) for those around me.

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