"Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. ... So Abram went ... Genesis 12
I had some tough moments this week as I continue my transition from what has been to what will be. This weekend I preach my final message at the church that's been my home for the last three years.
But it hasn't been so much preparing for this last time of worship in Appleton. Rather it was noticing how I was completely in my "business-no-emotions" mode during Wednesday's final worship planning meeting. And then, not being in that mode, having to sit in the bathroom for a few minutes and focus on breathing after the afternoon's Volunteers in Mission team meeting. In both cases, I've worked closely with these people. I've sweated with the VIM team and that always seems to add another layer of intimacy for me.
A few weeks ago, a colleague who's retiring offered a book recommendation that he's finding useful in his own transition – William Bridges' Transitions: Making Sense of Life's Changes. I bought a used copy. Reading it, I've been finding ways to help make mine a healthy transition. The author writes about three stages that must happen in this order:
- Endings. "We have to let go of the old thing before we can pick up the new one – not just outwardly, but inwardly, where we keep our connections to people and places that act as definitions of who we are."
- The Gap. A time-out when we seem to do nothing, a "moratorium from the conventional activity of [our] everyday existence." This is when we do the inner work that allows us to make a break from the old and embrace the new.
- New beginnings. It's endings that make new beginnings possible.
We all do, though our culture makes it awkward. Transitions are seen as no more complex than crossing the street. When we try to explain what's going on, why we're going away for a couple days, or aimlessly wandering the park at night, people look at us askance. In looking for pictures to go with this entry, I found one that illustrates our challenge – a person trying to step over a barbed wire fence. Yikes! That's not the transition I want.
Other pictures showed butterflies in their stages of development. Friday, Kay and I went to High Cliff State Park and while we were in the rangers' station, we looked at an aquarium filled with tadpoles. Imagine their conversations..
George: Oh, look at my gorgeous tail. Don't you love it?
Fred: Grand. Mine's just like it. I can swim so fast.
... days later ...
George: I'm dying! Look at my tail. It's half what it was.We may feel like life's ending sometimes, too, but thankfully when we practice gratitude, when we're open to joy, we find that life continues to be good.
Fred: How will we ever swim? Oh, I miss it already! And these growths on our sides ... Life is so brief. It's been nice knowing you, George.
You know the changes you're facing. The changes I've heard about this week include:
- A parent wondering where their baby went now that she's running around and talking;
- A 90-year-old talking about moving to an assisted living facility;
- Another parent lamenting about the graduate who's going (too) far away to college;
- A teen going on a first date...