“Nothing has the propensity to reveal false gods to me like a sudden change in circumstances… Use change to provoke what needs changing in me, Lord, and to increase my appreciation of the only one who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
I stumbled upon this Beth Moore quote just as I was contemplating all of the changes I have ahead of me this spring. Truthfully, I have been feeling weary after the constant transitions that have made up the bulk of this year.
I’m going to hazard a guess that flexibility doesn’t come naturally to the majority of people. It certainly doesn’t come naturally to me. Each small adjustment to the schedule of what will be our life requires near Herculean effort to accept. Each time I project out into the future, attempting to assemble the seasons that will make up my life, I feel overwhelmed at the sheer volume of “unknowns.”
I also see how change and transition carries the potential to shape, mold, and teach us. Those new cities, friends, communities, jobs, schools, programs, roles, and perspectives have helped shape me into a much kinder, more tolerable person that I once was. I can only hope that future changes will bring more positive changes in me— along with a heaping spoonful of adventure to keep life from venturing into the mundane.
One of my favorite reads from my master’s program offered advice for dealing with transitions, appropriately titled “Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes” by William Bridges. The basic premise of the book was that some of life’s most stressful moments are those brought about by transition. Whether the change is positive or negative, transition forces us out of our comfort zone and disrupts our lives. This read was especially powerful for me because it is so easily applicable to my life, and I draw from the concepts frequently.
It emphasizes the value of processing the transition in three distinct phases; the end phase, the neutral phase, and the new beginning phase.
The end phase is the time when you mourn what was and let go of your current circumstances. This is an often painful and difficult phase— it’s much easier to withdraw and avoid the unpleasant feelings of loss that so often come with change. However, remaining present through the end phase and allowing yourself to experience the accompanying negative emotions will better allow you to move into your new life.
For me, this meant trying my best to keep engaging with my surroundings in Germany, and again now. In hindsight, I needed those final moments with my friends close and those sweet “goodbye” rituals, even though there were a lot of days it felt discouraging to continue enjoying something that I knew would be ending soon.
The second phase is the neutral phase, during which you haven’t fully integrated into your new circumstances. With this comes stress, restlessness, lack of energy, and feeling lost.
I cannot think of a more fitting description for what I’m dealing with presently, and I’ll tell you— it’s my least favorite part of the process. Nothing rocks your identity more than being in the midst of a change that you have little control over and wondering how you’ll find your footing again!
The key here is to have grace for yourself. It’s ok to take time to accept your new circumstances and to find your place. It’s ok to be less productive and less motivated. Having unrealistic expectations for yourself will only make you more frustrated! Interestingly, while this is a truly difficult part of any transition, it’s also the place where I most feel God’s presence. Beth Moore’s quote hits the nail on the head; God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, giving us that permanence and sense of home that we so often lack in life.
The final phase is the fun part— new beginnings! This is the adventure where you feel open to learning new things and having new experiences, a renewed sense of purpose, and more abundant energy and creativity. During this part of the process, people generally feel a sense of acceptance for their new circumstances.
By experiencing change as a series of three phases rather than as one lumped experience, you can come to know what to expect and prepare accordingly. It ‘s also a way of giving yourself permission to feel all that comes with each phase, good and bad alike.
There’s a lot of living to be done in those in-between phases, rocky and unpredictable as they might be! I suppose this is my cue to remain in the present rather than obsessing over what’s to come next 😉
Friends, how have you learned to cope with transition? What keeps you sane when life is in upheaval? Please share your wisdom!