Transition could be my middle name. I was a Third Culture Kid (TCK) for the first half of my life and became an immigrant in the second. Born in one place, educated in another, and transplanted once more right in the middle of life–on my way over the hill–to yet another geography. Life has felt more often “in transit” than safely landed.
But you don’t need to have an international upbringing to feel like you’re all over the map. Marriage or divorce, beginning a career or changing one, moving across town or the globe, motherhood to name a few, are events that shift and uproot. Change is a shift that redoes life and we don’t want to be undone by it.
Transition is that uneasy middleness between felt safety and wished permanence. It demands we part with something familiar. That’s too great a loss to bear. Who are we when we’re on our way to becoming? That formidable passage from knowing our place in the life we live, to living a life we didn’t sign up to have, is so hard on our soft edges already formed with the shape of what is familiar and known.
To lose that is to lose oneself, isn’t it? Any gain to be had is foreign and invisible to the person we are. It’s an act of self-preservation when we avoid anything that might alter the spaces we feel competent in managing, the relationships that make us feel known, and the rhythms that carry the life we embody.
To let go of that for a version of life we don’t know feels too risky, too costly. Like breaking down the order of things that makes us who we are. Somewhere tucked deep within, is a dialogue of sorts:
I don’t want to find myself unknown by others.
I don’t want to not know who the new others are.
I don’t want to not know who I am without all that is known to me.
Who will I be then? I don’t recognize that life. I don’t recognize myself living it.
To have to move every so many years. To be a first-time mother. A student after decades out of school. Single again. A new desk and commute. Illness. These shifts make any of us feel like an immigrant inside our own lives. Losing our footing once anchored to what is no longer there, whether a last name we must drop, a neighborhood we must leave, or everyday life that no longer fits the days ahead.
Herein lies the crux of transition and why sometimes we fight it to the death. Transition is the speed bump toward becoming. We feel it as a hiccup on our desired trajectory when it is in fact a pivotal part of it. The shift it brings redoes, reforms us. It reshapes like a nail file, the rough edges developed over time. So familiar, we’ve grown blind and glossed over them in our day-to-day.
Transition is a gateway to becoming. Change has the strength to form or unform. For the follower of Jesus, this is where the rubber meets the road. If truly all things are held together by him, and hard things happen to soft people, the permanence we need is found not in our ability at preservation but in God’s for transformation. This does not cancel out our emotions about the loss we incur when change takes place and takes away security or familiarity.
There is breathing room for our humanity in the immensity of who God is. The challenge for the Christian is to believe Christ is present when nothing else pleasant is. To entrust whatever clay of ourselves is left, to be formed, unformed, and formed again in his hands, large enough to hold what we didn’t want, were afraid to have, or were left with after life’s storms.