I (Curtis) went my adult life without knowing or thinking about transitions as a “thing.” Sure, I understood that changing jobs or getting married is a big transition.
But it never occurred to me that there were stages to a transition, or that some approaches to them were better than others. But now it seems as if I can’t get through the day without thinking about transition-related themes.
Karen shared that, before understanding some key elements of transitions,she was like a lot of people, and experienced transitions as things to just get through.
Understanding a few basic things about transitions is super helpful for personal and spiritual growth.
Transitions include letting go and receiving. It’s like the old wineskins in Luke 5:37 – “No one puts new wine into old wineskins otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and will be spelled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins.”
Bruce Feiler wrote the book “Transitions.” He didn’t set out to write the book. He was interviewing a large number of people about their life experiences, and he realized that much of their “story” revolved around the transitions in their lives. He ended up writing about the phases of transitions.
We like to think of events in life as starting at a beginning and proceeding to an ending. But transitions don’t work like that.
A transition STARTS with an ending. Then there’s a neutral zone that’s chaotic, often seemingly lacking in direction or purpose, and with little ability to see where you will “end up.” A new beginning is often gradual. It creeps in and starts to build momentum. As Providence begins to get new things aligned, there’s a new beginning.
The ending involves a loss. Even when we are happy there’s an ending, there’s still a loss of what was familiar. The middle, called the neutral zone, carries uncertainty. There’s discomfort. Usually there are things that we have to unlearn. After we unlearn them, we can start to receive what’s new.
A time of transition, especially a major one – a “lifequake” – is a time where we could receive the new grace that God has for us. It might be a new way of being, or a new purpose, or a new mission, but there’s something new that God has for us, something deeper.
We can approach our transitions thinking about: What is this new thing? What needs to change in me so I can receive the new?