Discerning the Transitions that Lead to TransformationSep 12, 2019
Many years ago, we found ourselves in an extended season in which we felt like we were moving from transition to transition in our lives. Sometimes it involved outward transitions like new roles or new neighborhoods, but more often, it was a matter of transitions inside of us.
- Transitions of what was meaningful currently compared to what had been meaningful to us before.
- Transitions in our experience of God with us or, sometimes, wondering why God didn’t feel as close to us as before.
- Transitions in our emotional lives. Transitions between confidence and insecurity, between peace and worry, between joy and sadness.
- Transitions in the way we were relating to one another. We found that as each of us grew and changed, the nature of our marriage relationship changed. More transition.
We remember at one point, after talking about transition so much, we found ourselves feeling a little tired, even disillusioned, from so much change. Part of the tiredness was not feeling like we were landing somewhere solid in our lives with all that transition. It was disorienting.
Eventually, we looked at each other and found ourselves quoting a line from one of our long-time favorite movies.
Maybe you’ve seen it: “The Princess Bride.” If you have, you may remember a scene at night when Vizzini, Fezzik and Inigo Montoya have kidnapped the princess. Inigo begins making comments about being followed, which Vizzini says is “inconceivable.”
Inigo continues to persist about the possibility that they are being followed and Vizzini continues to insist that it is, in fact, “inconceivable.” Unlikely event after unlikely event unfolds, and that same word, “inconceivable” arises.
Finally, at the top of the cliffs of insanity, being followed up the rope they are climbing by the man in black, Vizzini, yet again, declares the whole thing “inconceivable”, when Inigo turns to him, and says, “You keep using that word. I do not think that word means what you think it means.”
We cannot tell you how many times we have quoted that line to one another when we found ourselves in a place of fresh understanding. It has been a great source of wisdom to us.
In our case, the word was “transition.” “I do not think that word means what you think it means.”
We had been using the word “transition” to describe a season in which we were experiencing change after change. We were using it in the assumption that we were on our way to landing somewhere final and maybe even predictable. “Transition” was going to be a limited little season that would end.
We decided that maybe the word “transition” wasn’t actually the best word to describe what we were experiencing.
Maybe, instead, rather than being in transition and looking for a final landing place, we were actually on a journey. Maybe instead of “transition,” “journey” was the word we were looking for. And a journey is different than a transition.
People on a journey are pilgrims. They are nomads. They are on the move. It helped us to think that perhaps we weren’t looking to land somewhere soon where we would feel secure once again.
We came, little by little, to learn that being on a journey meant that our sense of home was not mostly going to be in some predictable somewhere, but in a completely faithful Someone. That Someone is with us wherever we find ourselves. God was inviting us to find ourselves at home in Him in the midst of our journey from change to change.
In our new book, What Does Your Soul Love?The subtitle is “Eight Questions That Reveal God’s Work in You.”The message at the heart of the book is the reality of change—more particularly, of personal transformation in Christ. Here are the first few lines of the introduction:
This is a book about change. We set out to write a book about transformation, but in everyday life, the two of us have very different responses to change. Alan resists change, tending to avoid it. He prefers to keep things the way they are; he likes predictability as a way of feeling secure. Gem embraces change, even seeks it out. She loves the variety and creativity of new experiences. But we both are hungry for the kind of change God invites us to.
We seek the sort of transformation that would make us a little more beautiful in kingdom ways. We both want the kind of change that is an answer to “Your kingdom come, your will be done in me as it is in heaven.”
So some of us tend to love change. We like spontaneity, variety, new things.
And some of us tend to resist change. We like stability, tradition, we might just be like the little child who says to her parent, “Do it again.”
But whatever our initial response to change might be, change is very much a part of our journey with Jesus.
In Philippians 1:6 (ESV) we read, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
Our confidence for the future is not rooted in any human capacity, strategy or plan—ours or anyone else’s. The confidence Paul speaks of here is found in the strong intention and the full commitment of God to finish the good work begun in us, among us and through us.
- God has started something in each of us.
- God has started something among us as the body of Christ.
- And God is fully committed to finishing that very good work.
One of the things we’ve learned about staying on and leaning into this journey of transformation is something pretty simple.
“It will be very difficult to embark (and remain) on a journey of transformation if we do not have confidence that we are already loved as we currently are. We don’t change so that we’ll be loved more by God. We are measurelessly loved by God, so we are free and enabled to change in all the ways we long for. (What Does Your Soul Love?, p. 7).
The secure place where we can take the personal steps into the new places God’s work is inviting us into is the place of our deep confidence in God’s reliable and ever-present care for us.
The home in which we can make our way in our current places of transition is in the secure care of a very Good Shepherd in whom we really shall not find ourselves in a condition of want.
And one of our very favorite prayers in the New Testament has been the prayer that comes near the beginning of Paul’s letter to the Philippians
This is what is sounds like in Eugene Peterson’s The Message version. Let the words paint a picture of this very good work that God has envisioned, has planned and is now executing in us and among us:
“So, this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God (Phil. 1:9-11).”
What a beautiful vision of each of our lives.
- It’s a vision of love that flourishes and overflows among us: being loved by God and loving God back, loving one another, and loving the neighbors God gives us.
- It’s a vision of love that is a response to a growing knowledge of reality and a clearer discernment of what really matters.
- It’s a vision of love that is “pure and blameless,” love that is rooted in more and more harmony between our ideas, our words, our relationships, and our works.
- Finally, it’s a vision of a life of love that is increasingly full of goodness and of a very real experience and expression of the presence of God among us.
God has been engaged in a very good and beautiful work in you. And as we all move into the uncertain weeks, months and even years ahead, there is something we can be utterly confident about.
The One Who has begun this good work among us is fully resolved, fully capable and fully engaged towards the fulfillment of that work until is well-done in each of us and among us together.
How might God wish to show God’s presence with you in his faithfulness, in his care, in his great ability to do good in and through change?