A Conversation about Transition
“Sure, I can write a post about transition,” I confidently told the rest of the Velvet Ashes editoral team. After 18 years of cross cultural living, transition stories abound. But somehow putting pen to paper to capture what we experience in common – and yet experience so uniquely personally – has proven to be easier agreed to than written.
Passage from one state, form, place to another is a rather sterile definition of a word carrying layers of emotion and memories for anyone who has lived cross culturally. It seems a call to cross cultural service is also a call to transition.
You know. Taking inventory of friends – who’s moving, who’s staying. Sorting through your collection of currencies to find the one for the country you are traveling to next. Packing suitcases weighing 49.9 pounds. Figuring time zone differences for Skype calls. Leaving those to whom you belong to become a sojourner in a place you’ll never quite fully fit. Transplanting far from extended family. Sinking roots into foreign soil. Whispering goodbye – again – to family, teams, friends, projects, positions, seasons, stages. You know.
Some transitions we choose. Some transitions come when the rug is pulled out from under us. But one thing every transition holds is loss. Even in wonderful, exciting transitions, there is a letting go, a release, moments of waiting-to-exhale trust. Grief becomes that old familiar friend who sits in the corner waiting for you to have a few minutes to quietly chat. And sometimes that loud obnoxious friend who won’t let you talk to anyone else until she’s had her say.
For years, my core paradigm was TRANSITION = CHAOS!
You are probably familiar with the transition metaphor of crossing a river, moving from one shore of certainty and settledness to the next. The current in the middle represents chaos, fatigue, uncertainty, stress, fear, excitement, joy, sorrow – well, let’s face it, every emotion known to mankind!
Honestly, sometimes transition feels more like crossing an ocean than a river.
I used to think the goal of transition was to just get across as quickly and safely as possible. Hopefully with no one drowning.
In one of those crossings, as I was swallowing swirling water and trying to come up for air, a strange thought came to me – maybe in the middle of a raging river is right where God wanted me.
It makes sense, right? Because transition is such a common and frequent experience for cross cultural workers, there must be significant purpose in transition. God isn’t vacationing while we are transitioning. We know transformation most often happens when our identity, our values, our core beliefs are challenged. When normalcy is disrupted. And transitions supply endless disruptions!
So… what if TRANSITION = TRANSFORMATION?
What if this river has a purpose? What if time in the river is building muscles that don’t get used on the shore?
Once I started looking for opportunity in the chaos, I didn’t have to look far!
Transitions get me to the end of myself quickly. I am more physically tired with less emotional reserve – prime time for default stress responses to surface what’s in my heart. Like a tube of toothpaste, squeeze our hearts and what’s inside comes out. And sometimes it’s not minty fresh!
I’m normally a pretty reasonable person. But when it comes to putting things in boxes, I become a gone-off-the-rails, full blown control freak! Demanding and commanding, the longer my to-do list becomes, the shorter I become with those who are unfortunate enough to be “in my way.” Those who need more of my time and patience and understanding, get less. My default response says “Put your stuff in a box” (both literally and figuratively).
And there’s my invitation to cooperate with God as He moves me towards transformation in my transition. What if I honored His ways instead of demanded my own? What if I made intentional choices to live according to my desires rather than my default behaviors? What if I trusted Him to provide everything I needed for life and godliness in this exhausting process of getting from shore to shore? What if I decided what I want to be true about me when I emerge on the other side and cooperated with God as He makes me into that person?
I’m beginning to see transitional seasons as a gift. A time when new dreams are birthed. When God prunes me to prepare for fruit. When He releases my grip on what is to be able to grasp what’s to come. And best of all, transitions are fertile ground for Jesus to be formed in me.
If this current transition you are in was specifically designed for you, what might God be up to? What’s His invitation to you?