It’s that time of the year when many of us are in transition. Students of all ages begin a new school year. Some of us are starting new jobs, and at church we are getting ready for the new seasons of Advent and Christmas. Even the created world is in transition, that season between summer and autumn when, at least here in the Pacific Northwest, the mornings are cool, but the days are still warm.
Transitions mean change, which can be challenging, sometimes painful. We want to hold onto the familiar and comforting. The leeks and garlic of Egypt, all the things that sustained us in our past, beckon us.
Change is usually marked by deliberate steps we take that say life is going to be different. Jesus marked his move into adulthood at the age of twelve by staying behind in Jerusalem to ask questions of the religious leaders. He inaugurated his ministry with forty days in the desert. He also marked his transition towards the cross by a deliberate and determined walk towards Jerusalem. Jesus knew when it was time to say life is going to be different in the future, and he knew how to prepare for those changes.
I recently stepped down from my leadership position in Mustard Seed Associates and am finding that I need to mark this transition with changes in my physical environment as well as my spiritual observances. Here are some things I have learned through my transition that you might find helpful for your congregation.
Transitions require us to identify stability points that will not change.
In the last few weeks, I have reflected a lot on the foundations of my faith—my beliefs that should not change. I need the security of knowing that not everything will change. I need to be able to stand firm in my faith as well as in my important relationships.
Question: What do I need to hold onto that will strengthen my faith and beckon me towards God’s love?
Transitions require deliberate steps towards change.
It is easy to settle into the familiar patterns of the past and not work consciously towards the changes God wants us to make. In stepping down from leadership I let go of something I created. My patterns of the last ten years were comfortable and comforting. Now, suddenly there are lots of new options out there. I don’t know what I should be doing. It is easier to look back than to look forward. Deliberately working towards change has been a very important and, at times, painful journey for me.
Question: What do I long for that I should be letting go of?
Transitions require the creation of new boundaries and new rituals.
My husband Tom and I have just embarked on a major remodel in our house. It is part of the transition, part of the establishing of new boundaries and new rituals. It will provide for both of us a new environment in which to work, and it will encourage us to establish new practices and new priorities. However, it is disorienting and chaotic. It is no longer comfortable.
Question: What changes may be necessary in your physical environment to prepare you for the spiritual changes ahead?
Transitions require space and time for dreaming new dreams.
Transition time is busy time. We have a hundred-and-one tasks to hand over and spaces to clear out. It is easy to fill our days without actually thinking about the future. Sometimes the dreams that moved us towards transition seem to get lost in the process.
We need to take to time to breathe, to sit still, to reflect. Clearing our calendars for a season, going on retreat, and taking time to allow God to renew and refocus us are essential.
Question: What space is necessary for dreaming new dreams for the future?
Transitions require help from advisors.
Over the next few weeks, I will engage a spiritual director and a life coach to help me move into this new season of my life. I am reading a lot and seeking the advice of a broad array of friends and wise counselors. I have lots of ideas that I think are from God but realize that I cannot move into the journey God has for me without help.
We all need companions who can walk beside us, as well as those who can guide and help direct us into new seasons of life.
Question: Who are the companions and advisors that help you through transition?
Transitions cannot be rushed.
I wish that my transition season could be over and done with in a couple of weeks, but I know it will actually take months, possibly longer, before dreams and possibilities emerge fully. It is easy to get impatient, to try to give birth prematurely. This is not a season to hurry through. The season between conception and birth is essential, and even after that there is a long and sometimes slow season of growth to maturity.
Question: How have you hurried through transitions and tried to give birth prematurely?
What About Your Life Transitions?
Maybe you are not in a major transition time like I am, but I am sure that the next few months hold some form of minor transition that will invite the same kinds of questions I am asking. Are you starting a new school year or preparing for a new liturgical season? Are you launching a new ministry?
Sit and reflect on the transitions in your own life and those of your congregation. What is God saying to you that could help you and your parishioners through this season?
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