Dealing with Transition in the Midst of Change

Posted: March 28, 2012 in Life As We Know It!
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As I write this post I do so during one of the biggest and most frustrating seasons of transition that I have known, and I still don’t know how this chapter will end.  Any way you slice it, change is tough…even good change.  Any time you have to make adjustments to your lifestyle, habits, vocation, family there’s always some tension to navigate.  Not all tension is negative, as tension is often one of those warning signs that simply lets us know that something needs changing (like the check engine light on your car!).  But when change is thrust upon you quickly, well it’s not often easy to deal with.  Right now I’m in the midst of a transition that has taken much longer than we ever anticipated, and our family has had to navigate different waters and currents we didn’t see coming.  However, even within the uncertainty of where we find ourselves, I’ve learned to trust God deeper, positioned myself to know Him (and myself) more, and I’ve grown closer with my family than I likely would have if this transition had never taken place.

Now have you noticed the use of the words change and transition?  Both are used to describe our journey, but I’ve recently learned the difference in the meaning of the two.  In Rhett Smith‘s article, Anxiety in the In-Between Stages of Our Lives, he talks about change being situational (divorce, job loss, tragedy, moving, etc…), but transition is much more about how we process the events of change in the ‘in-between’ stages of getting ‘there’…wherever ‘there’ is.  Listen to what William Bridges says about change and transition (Smith quotes Bridges work: Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes, for his research while writing his new book, The Anxious Christian: Can God Use Your Anxiety for Good);

Our society confuses them constantly, leading us to imagine that transition is just another word for change. But it isn’t…Change is situational. Transition, on the other hand, is psychological. It is not those events, but rather the inner re-orientation and self-redefinition that you have to go through in order to incorporate any of those changes into your life. Without a transition, a change is just a rearrangement of the furniture. Unless transition happens, that change doesn’t work, because it doesn’t ‘take.’ Whatever word we use, our society talks a lot about change; but it seldom deals with transition.

Smith later discusses how anxiety creeps into the transition stages during those ‘in-between’ times, and when not dealt with, leads to depression, anger, withdrawal, self-injury, and suicide.  Now I can honestly say I’ve never even come close to the point of self-injury or suicide, but I have battled thoughts of anger, depression and withdrawal during seasons of transition.  And it’s during these transitional seasons that real change can take place within us, if we allow God to transform and refine us in the fires of change.

Shouldn’t we be used to transition by now?  After all, we’ve been a transitional people since the garden incident where sin entered in and disrupted the original plan God had for mankind and forever changed the way we approach God.  It continued through the Exodus of God’s people from captivity in Egypt, and into the wilderness of change where the promised land awaited them.  Those were two of the biggest transition points in the history of the human race, not-to-mention numerous transitions during Old and New Testament times, and throughout the age of enlightenment, the industrial revolution, the reformation, the fall of communism, the world wars, and the Renaissance.  But going back to the exodus, which was a key moment for God’s people Israel.  The journey, changes and transition that took place was far more than just about moving into a new living space and escaping a bunch of angry Egyptians and a slighted Pharaoh.  It was about the transformation of individuals as a nation and people, and the transition taking place within them as they moved closer to the destination of change.  Or in simpler terms, it was more about the process than it was about the address change.

When I read the article, it gave me a renewed, and reminded, sense of hope in the midst of change.  God is far more concerned with the process, than He is with the actual destination…although it does matter.  But it’s the work that happens in between ‘here’ and ‘there’ that is the focal point (did you catch that unintended plug…Here & There…??).  Some of my biggest personal and spiritual growth moments have come during this season of transition, and because of that my leadership capacity as a husband, father, leader and child of God has experienced tremendous life and increase.  And it happened in the tension of change!

Make sure you give Rhett Smith’s article a read, and take note of the action steps he gives near the end that parents can use to effectively deal with the seasons of transition we all inevitably go through in life, especially the transitions kids go through as they grow and mature.  He points out 4 key strategies;

Talking About It- should go without saying…communication is vital during any change!  “Talking about our feelings, especially anxiety, helps us build a vocabulary that enables us to better understand how we feel, as well as connecting us with the listener.”
Ask Questions and Listen- Any time I have anxiety I find myself asking God, “What are you saying to me in my anxiety? What are you trying to teach me? How do you want me to respond to it?” Or, “Why am I anxious? Is there something in my life that needs changing?”
Co-Create Meaning- “Co-create a family story with your spouse and kids. Talk about what kind of story you have all been living, and whether or not it carries the meaning you desire.”
Practice Self-Care- “Someone who doesn’t practice self-care has nothing to offer their neighbor. They become an empty well with no living water flowing out of it.”

I hope this insight has been as helpful to you during your season of transition and change, as it has been for me and my family.  May our Lord and God continue to lead you through the season you’re in, and when you think you just can’t go any further without giving in, I leave you with 2 Corinthians 12:8-10;

Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I pray you allow His grace to guide and sustain you, and don’t forget to check out Rhett Smith’s newly released book: The Anxious Christian: Can God Use Your Anxiety for Good

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