The Holy Work of Transition
I’m writing this right before my youngest child graduates from high school. In fact, that same kid turns 18 the day after she graduates. To say we’re in the midst of a bunch of transitions in our family is an understatement (because my son is almost 20, too). At first blush, I don’t really care for transitions. They remind me a little too much of that 6-letter swear word, change. But when I dig a little deeper, I not only see the benefit of transitions, I see them as an opportunity for us to allow some of God’s most holy work to occur within us.
In my opinion, one of the best (and, alas, most graphic) examples of the holy work of transition is the transition phase of non-surgical child birth. To spare my one male reader, I will keep things PG, and say that when a woman is “in transition”, she is at the point of her labor where it’s too early to push, and too late for any epidural medication. Transition represents those last few centimeters of the body’s readiness before the baby can safely be delivered. This phase often finds women feeling very vulnerable, in pain, and out of control, because there’s nothing they can do to speed up the process or make it easier. They simply must ride it out. It takes however long it takes. But guess what? After transition, the mother can actively push out the baby and typically feels much relief at the prospect of doing so. And then, THERE’S A BABY! So it’s all good and amazing. Through this transition, God brings forth the miracle of a baby.
There are other transitions which occur with less fanfare, but the waiting on God to work us through them can feel reminiscent of pushing a watermelon through a keyhole. Transitions can even be very exciting as we build up to them, and we know we’ll appreciate them after they occur. For me, however, the in-between time is very disconcerting. Most difficult for me is that the in-between time takes TIME—a time of vulnerability, of allowing God to do what in my own strength, I cannot. Allowing for Him to change me as He will from one side of the transition to the other. Oh, and, as in childbirth, it takes as long as it takes.
Child graduating? Upcoming wedding? Spouse retiring? Retiring yourself? Moving? Changing houses of worship? Pregnancy in your family – new baby or new grandbaby? Adoption? New job? New school? Searching for a job? Injury? Illness? Meno/Mano-pause? Big Event?
Life is full of events tethered to transitions, isn’t it? In each of these aforementioned situations, we look ahead to the event, perhaps even planning and participating in the event, and then we view the event in our rearview mirror. It’s so tempting, at least for me, to rush through and get things done, because I don’t like the uncertainty of being in limbo (even though I’m not – it just feels like it). I’m a do-er, not a be-er. I like to know what’s happening, when it’s happening, and how long it’s going to take. I like to feel like I can control an outcome, or at least know that I have a great impact upon the outcome. What’s hard for me? Accepting that God’s timing is perfect. Leaning IN to Him when I want to pull the covers over my head ‘because this is taking too long!’. Resting in His faithfulness, rather than churning in my restlessness. When I think about it, I feel silly and quite convicted of heart. Why? Because when I focus so hard on getting to whatever goal/event/milestone I’m trying to conquer, I miss out on the chance to see and appreciate Jesus doing His work in me. Every day.
I can complain about the changes my body is going through, or I can thank Jesus for the other sisters who have been put on this planet to walk me through them. I can stress out over graduation festivities being just so, or I can ‘waste time’ hanging out on my daughter’s bed, talking about nothing in particular. I can anxiously await hearing news on whether my child is accepted to this school or that, or I can embrace the day to day rhythm of life, and enjoy that my child lives at home, at least for now.
When I think about it, since most of my life is spent transitioning from one thing to another, I have the gift of waiting upon God to refine, refresh, and remake me into His image. May Jesus do the same in you, I pray. Holy work, indeed.
The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still. ~ Exodus 14:14 (NIV)
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” ~ Psalm 46:10 (NIV)
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. ~ Psalm 51:10 (NIV)
If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it. ~ Matthew 10:39 (NLT)
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” ~ Revelation 21:5 (NIV)
- A Friend In Need - August 31, 2018
- Breakin’ It Down - July 23, 2018
- Lean on Me - May 18, 2018
“Most difficult for me is that the in-between time takes TIME—a time of vulnerability, of allowing God to do what in my own strength, I cannot.” This is such a great analogy!! Since I never got to experience the transition phase in birth(2 C-sections), I would not have known about how it feels. This is really helpful in putting those transition times in perspective, because I’m a do-er, too. Thanks so much, Gretchen!
Thank you for your encouragement, dear Becky. Man that do-er stuff is hard to shed, sometimes, isn’t it? Xo
I can totally relate and live your analogy. As a career labor nurse, that long awaited transition is so intense. The change you wanted really is coming…just not quite yet! You are closer than you’ve ever been before…and this part does NOT last forever.
What a great application to the many transition experiences outside the delivery room!!
Thank you, Ruth! What holy ground you tread with those mamas. ?
“Resting in His faithfulness, rather than churning in my restlessness.” That resting thing…yeah, it ‘feels’ so much more natural to be restless. Yet when we ‘be’ rather than ‘do’ the event is so much more peaceful, and rewarding!!! I am speaking from limited, but informed, experience (;o) Thanks, Gretchen. It again reminds me to ‘be.’
We can sit in the same corner, reminding each other, Diane! Xo
Perfect picture of this process. I think L&D was so much more tolerable because I at least knew what to expect because my CNM kept telling me things like “you’re doing great. This is the transition phase. You will be able to push soon.You’ll have that a baby in your arms before too long. For now, let’s just breathe.” She kept giving me tips on how to be more comfortable while I was waiting. It still was a pain, but her gentle reassurance that it was a normal part of labor, her reminder that leaning in and focusing on breathing, her kind voice- all were such a comfort to me.
It’s good to have people in your lives who can do the same for us when we’re in life transitions. Thanks for your mad spiritual midwifery skills. This article is just what I needed today. Xo
Isn’t that true though of having someone by your side during these times makes it bearable? It is a precious gift to have someone encouraging you during this all too frequent time of life.
“Mad spiritual midwifery skills”. Shucks, ma’am. Feel like you’ve helped me transition through so many times with skills of your own. ❤️
Watermelon through a keyhole- LOL. I’d like to give that visual to my 23 year old so we don’t have any unexpected transitions. Ha!
Girl, I am smack dab in the middle of transitions. 23 year old living at home, working but searching for a better job so she can move out on her own. Counseling her often on the uncertainty of it all, her career, love life, friendships. 17 year old looking at colleges which I was fine with until he decided that he really likes the one that’s 5 hours from home. Mother-in-law with terminal cancer who has outlived (praise God) her expiration date but it leaves us feeling anxious just not knowing when or how it will all end. Just started a new business that’s way out of my comfort zone.
What struck me most about your post is that there will ALWAYS be some big or small transition we are facing and most of them (especially the waiting part) are downright uncomfortable- yet we can choose to find everyday moments of joy. Thanks to your post, I’m looking at these times in a different way. A way to really truly trust God’s plans, even when I’m not sure how they’ll turn out for me and those I love. A way to draw closer to Him. Thank you Gretchen- needed this!
One day as I sat in traffic, pregnant with my first child and scared to death, I thought ‘every single person sitting in a car was birthed by someone, and most of them probably survived it and did it again!’ That thought so comforted me. I was not alone, it was doable, others had gone ahead of me and shown me it could be done. That’s true of all the stages of life. That being said, as an empty nester I’d advise stocking up on chocolate, finding a project to keep you busy for a month or so (so you don’t go and adopt another dog or cat), and your husband might want to get the name of a close florist. Letting them leave the nest goes against everything inside us! xoxo
Thank you for the reminder that transitions have a purpose, but happen according to God’s timing. It’s so easy to want to control every aspect of our lives, only to be reminded that we really aren’t in control of everything. As in childbirth…it’s gonna take as long as it’s gonna take. The waiting is hard, but doable if we look at it in a Godly perspective to His purpose for our lives. Thank you!!!
This post was wonderful, Gretchen. I too, LOVE the analogy to L&D! It sounds like this year you are in a very similar circumstance to my last year. Child graduating college, child marrying, me getting a masters, going on vacation to another culture, then my mother falling and requiring months of transition to get back to (a new) normal. I prefer my changes to come in orderly fashion–one per week, better yet, one per month, please. It doesn’t always/usually work out that way, does it? So glad I have a loving and capable God whispering: “Remember, you can do all things with me helping you, darling.”