3 Thoughts on Life in Transition

“I am in transition.”  This is what I keep preaching to myself several times a day, every day.  Six weeks ago my family and I made a move from Florence, Italy to Austin, Texas.  We lived in Italy for five years and experienced many highs and lows.  You would think coming back to your home culture would be easy-but it’s not.  There is a general malaise that will hit me at any point in the day.  I can’t tell if I am longing for what I had or anxious about what I don’t yet know-or both.  We are experiencing what most would call a major transition.  But transitions come in many forms and can still have the same effects.  Transition can mean changing jobs, changing teams, changing locations, experiecing tragedy, losing a role, losing a community, etc.  Here are three observations I have made so far about life in transition.

1. Transition is Always Disorienting-Transition is defined as movement, passage or change from one position or state to another.  Whether we seek transition or transition seeks us, it necessarily involves change.  And change is always disorienting to one degree or another.  We leave the known for the unknown.  We move from that which has defined us to the realm of being experientially undefined.  This disorientation usually causes stress behavior.  I see it right now in my wife and children.  Of course I am not exhibiting any stress behavior-right!  My tiredness and my anger are just underneath the surface.  I can simultaneously yell or fall asleep depending on the circumstance.  Unfortunately I pride myself on remaining under control.  What I am learning is that I have to embrace this season of transition.  I must recognize the season I am in and recognize the ways that it impacts me.  AND I have to realize that it is OK.  There is a rock that is higher than I.  And I must turn to Him in my moments of sanity and realization.  Only Christ can provide me with true north to balance the compass of my disorientation.  I think the answer lies in pursuing Christ personally and as a family, embracing transition and fully trusting Him to take us through it.

2. Transition Always Involves Gain and Loss-Change is like that.  As a family we chose this transition from Italy back to the U.S.  We fully believed that this is what the Lord had for us.  Yet we lost many things in the process.  We left a country that was beautiful, had incredible food, and valued relationship.  We left American friends.  We left Italian friends.  We left a ministry that had been challenging, exciting and rewarding.  We left behind a vision and a dream of serving overseas for the cause of Christ that will not be easily recaptured.  We left behind an incredible season of growth as individuals and as a family.  And though we carry the memories with us, we have left behind the real experiences of smiles, tastes, sounds, images and conversations of a season past.  We also gain a lot.  We have linked our lives to a new and fresh vision.  We have entered into new experiences that hold the promise of new relationships, new learning, new opportunity and the application of fresh faith.  Not all of this is realized yet-and that is what makes the pain of transition so real-leaving the known and quantifiable for the unknown.  I think the solution is in giving thanks for what we have already experienced (good or bad) and believing God for what He has yet to do, but will reveal.

3. Transition Always Tends Towards Isolation-I don’t think this observation is just about me or just about being male.  When we are disoriented and unable to get our bearings there is a tendency to look inward.  There is the tendency to give in to our tiredness and a desire to feed our thirst for comfort with that which is less than satisfactory.  I think this is where temptation lurks, desiring to suck us in to it’s vortex of self gratification and temporary pleasures.  I think the answer lies in community.  In the midst of transition and all of its highs and lows-we desperately need the fellowship of like minded people who can keep us balanced and pursuing that which really matters.  Today I had lunch with a good friend who helps to anchor me and provides me with godly perspective, so that I don’t do something stupid.  In transition I am always prone to do something stupid.

What are your thoughts?  How have you faced and handled transition?  Please comment below.

10 responses to “3 Thoughts on Life in Transition

  1. This is exactly why i DON’T like change, even when I know it’s from God and that we’re doing the right thing. When we moved from Burbank, CA to Colorado Springs, we KNEW it was the right thing, it was what God wanted, but it wasn’t easy. That was 9 years ago, and we still miss California but I’m thankful that I’ve been able to maintain or re-establish relationships there. We will go through this process again in our next move, whether it’s to Orlando for a STINT or . . . ? I’m excited for what God has in store for us, but I don’t look forward to the challenges that come with it . . . but I greatly appreciate how you’ve articulated this and will come back to this when we do!

    • Mike-thanks for your comments and your honesty. It’s interesting in that I think the older we get the more we tend to dislike change and yet, it is as we get older that we may need to seek some regular doses of change to keep us fresh and faith filled. But, like you, I don’t relish all aspects of change.

  2. Great post, Gary. You have eloquently captured the realities of transition. Even today I found myself wrestling with the tensions of values cultivated in me during my years in Russia with those I grew up with – I was attending a friend’s naturalization ceremony as she became a US citizen. I have a vehement desire to keep those things I gained through the experience, but I can feel them slipping away. It can be scary and it is sad – more loss. Thanks for putting it into words.

    • Thanks Cheryl for your comments. I appreciate how you bring up the idea of value conflict too. I want to think on that from my experience. I think that is an important piece in walking through the transition process. Thanks for contributing to the discussion.

  3. A few years ago I wrote this:

    And now, I am about to marry and move! After 20 years in the same place and ministry, TRANSITION is coming again. Thanks for the great reminders!

    • Thanks Judy for your comments-I just read your post on transition and found it really insightful. I think it needs to be mentioned that you recommended a book in your post called Transitions by William Bridges.

  4. I have been through several transitions, and there are always challenges associated with them. Not sitting back is essential; in other words, moving forward into your new community is a “must do.” Keeping your faith centered will provide the comfort and the strength.

    The great thing about life transitons is that they create sparks. These sparks create new, better opportunities. Be ready for the sparks.

    Great post. Thanks!


    • Thanks Jon for your comments and adding to the discussion. I like your thoughts of moving forward in to your new community-certainly passivity can lead towards a delayed healing and slows the learning and energy that can come from transition. Great thoughts.

  5. Some nice observations on transition.

    I do wonder a bit if everyone is given towards isolation in transition; I know a lot of extroverts that might disagree!

    I’d also add to your second point that not only should we give thanks for what we’ve experienced, but I think there’s a need for grieving what we’re losing. We don’t like to grieve in the US, but it’s how our emotional sides let go of things. It’s part of how God wired us.

    Hope the reverse culture shock doesn’t keep you feeling underwater too terribly much!

    • Thanks Matthew for the comments and insight. It might have been better stated if I had said that most people in transition tend towards self gratification-I think even extroverts may seek out people to fill the gap rather than experience true community. But you make a great point and I probably overstated my point. I also like you point about grieving-and I agree, we don’t like to grieve and miss out on some rich lessons by not doing so. Thanks again for joining the conversation and adding some valuable content.

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