In William Bridges’ helpful book Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes, he presents a simple way of looking at transitions:
“First there is an ending, then a beginning, and an important empty or fallow time in between.” (17)
This is true for all transitions, major and minor. Even if the transition is to take on a new role without laying aside a previous role, there is still an ending: there will be decreased time and capacity, and a new approach to the old role. Since transitions are inescapable for all of us, it is helpful to have a framework to understand the experience and consider how to bring the gospel to bear.
What the above sentence doesn’t describe is the agony that has brought about the ending and the ensuing sense of loss, the confusion and distress experienced during that ‘fallow’ period, and the trepidation and sense of disloyalty a new beginning can bring. So we rarely enter a time of significant transition in a calm and collected manner; often our core foundations have been shaken—which then leaves us feeling guilty for our lack of faith!
The psalmists regularly address this experience: Ps. 46 and 93 speak of the experience of feeling like the rug has been pulled out from under us; Ps. 74 and 77 speak of the sense of loss of God’s blessing on his people—all while expressing confidence that he will vindicate his own. They plead with God in desperation, even as they harbour doubts about his presence.
It is during that empty or fallow time where most of us face the most severe testing: we are tempted to fast forward into the new beginning, or reverse into the past. Remaining in the place of waiting often involves the stripping away of all the things that have been our practical supports: roles, competencies, activities, recognition. We resist the stripping by trying to re-clothe ourselves with what has been lost.
But God has done a lot of work to get us to this point: it would be a shame to miss out on the purposes he has for us in this time. Bridges writes,
“…it is in the neutral zone that the real work of transformation takes place.” (154)
While we scramble to find a way to get back to ‘normal’, God longs for us to wait on his re-clothing of us in the garments of his Son. Read through Ephesians 1:3-14 to glimpse what he has prepared for us. Trust in his timing, and come to him with a heart that longs for nothing less than the home he is preparing for us in himself.
Our soul waits for the Lord;
He is our help and our shield.
For our heart is glad in him,
Because we trust in his holy name.
Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
Even as we hope in you.
written by Michael
Michael is a long-standing member of the PTM Planning Committee. He currently provides member care with a Canadian sending agency, after having served for a decade in Central Asia.