The word “transition”, alone, is enough to make most people run for cover. It insinuates change, which headbutts how most of us are wired; for comfortability and security. While it’s true that there are both good and bad transitions, they still have one thing in common. Both types of transitions are hard. Really hard.
Ready or not, we all go through numerous transitions in our lives – leaving high school to go to college or work, changing jobs, getting married, having children. The list is never-ending and these changes ignite weeks, months, or longer full of awkward emotional spaces where we have to cut ties with what we once knew and own our unfamiliar realities.
In general, I’ve found that there are 3 type of transition in life:
1) Choice transitions: An opportunity comes along that you choose to take. Or maybe you realize it’s time to step away from something you’ve done for a while. This type of transition, one that I’m in right now, is one that you choose and feel like is what is best for your season. However, what I’m discovering is that it doesn’t mean it’s easy. I love my new job at The A Group, but that doesn’t mean that there haven’t been things that I’ve wrestled with. For example: I miss the team I worked with for years at Cross Point. I miss the buzz of ministry on Sunday mornings. I miss the routine I had for 14 years. I miss the people that trusted me to pastor them. Although it was a choice I weighed for quite some time and knew was right, it is still painful and difficult to endure initially.
2) Natural transitions: These could be anything from graduating from high school or college, having a baby, or getting married. They are often just part of the natural rhythms of life. They feel expected and normal, therefore making these transitions a little more welcomed, emotionally. Most people have gone through one or two of them in their lives, so we have plenty of unsolicited advice and blogs to help us through those.
3) Imposed Transitions: These are probably the most dreaded of the 3 transitions because the season is unwillingly imposed on us – sudden layoff from a job, unwanted and uninitiated breakups in relationships, an illness that threatens the very breath you breathe. They hit you like a brick wall and leave you emotionally stranded and vulnerable.
Whatever the circumstances, navigating through transitions in a healthy way can prove to be challenging. So here’s a few tips that hopefully you’ll find helpful for surviving your current or next transition.
Expect to feel depressed or anxious.
Even though my career transition is a positive and healthy thing for me, change is still change. I’m leaving behind colleagues that I’ve been in the trenches of ministry with for years and grown extremely close to. I’m leaving a job that was familiar and somewhat comforting, even though the weight of it all had become too much to carry.
Whenever we move forward, we leave something behind which creates a psychological state of grief, no matter how small. And if the change is unexpected and unwanted– the sudden job layoff or relationship breakup – the shock and depression are greater and more devastating to the life we all pictured. And with such turmoil as this, comes anxiety. We are out of our comfort zone; our imaginations run wild; we worry about an unknown future. So, don’t feel shame in your emotions. They are normal no matter how isolated they make you feel. Try to avoid the attempt of numbing with distractions. Feel what you’re heart is telling you, grieve the loss, and try to grow from it. It will get better, but we can’t expect an external portrayal of roses and rainbows to heal us.
Realize your past is not your past if it’s still impacting your present.
While you need to acknowledge your loss, you don’t want to get stuck in the past. Someone once told me that acknowledging that a door is closed is healthy; spending your time and energy staring at it is not.
Although it sounds like a cliché, I’ve found it to be true over and over. Often what feels like an ending is actually just a beginning. And just remember this isn’t the first transition you’ve gone through, right? You’ve – changed schools, churches, neighborhoods, relationships, jobs. We often encounter new struggles and think that “this time is different”, or “I can’t get through this one”. You can do this again. And this time even better.
Think positive. Think opportunity.
In the movie Up In the Air, George Clooney played a character whose job was to fire people for companies that were downsizing. If you’ve seen the movie, you know he would always begin his speech to whoever he was firing with “I’m here to talk to you about new opportunities.” Obviously, this was a bit of a spin, but it’s also kind of true.
Whether your transition is by choice or uninvited, my guess is that you’re going to have opportunity that you wouldn’t have had otherwise. You learn a new skill. You find a new appreciation for someone in your life. You begin using your experience to help other people with the same thing. You meet some new people that you would never have met any other way. You start down a path that seems unchartered and uninteresting, but actually ends up leading to a new passion that you didn’t know existed. All of these opportunities are chances to grow and see His goodness amidst challenges, so why not allow God to redeem something once perceived as stagnated.
Lean into God.
The reality is, we often lean and trust in things we never should have in the first place. We lean on our finances, we lean on our spouse or friend, we lean on job titles, and the list could go on and on.
You know I wish God had my full attention all the time but the reality is, I can get easily distracted by a lot of little shiny and enticing things in this world. But the moment I find myself in transition, the moment I feel like the rug has been ripped out from underneath me, is when God gets my full attention.
Transition, by definition, means change. But, we have a God who is unchanging and constant. Sovereign and all-knowing of our future and purpose. Faithful and full of grace through our attempts at navigating the “new”. So, during this time lean into the one thing, the only thing, that’s worthy of our full trust.