The Bridge of Transition
May 03, 2015 07:12AM
● By Bonnie Lyn Smith
As my youngest child was getting ready for school, I had an e-conversation with my sister-in-law. As I often do when I am reading someone’s story, I tried to imagine what it’s like to have one child graduating high school this year and another one doing the same a year later. I could picture it, but it was surreal to me. It’s not my current transition. But it is hers.
My whole year has been an extended transition: One child entered high school while one started middle school. Every day, I switch gears between fellow high school-er parents talking about student drivers and SAT prep and the typical middle school concerns of “mean girls” and safe texting guidelines. Meanwhile, I’m still in the “playdate” phase of raising my third child.
Some days, all I seem to do all day is transition: at-home responsibilities, writing, arranging appointments, taxi driving, counseling the one quickly approaching adulthood, and navigating the social wrecking ball that is middle school. (I’m convinced that once you survive middle school, you have the thick skin needed to go directly into the military or a career in psychology!)
As I write this in the early morning, coffee half-consumed, my iCalendar keeps popping up with new band performances and rehearsals. It’s comforting to “hear” from my oldest son, if even through a brief data entry about yet another place I have to drive him.
Maybe this title should be about interruptions and not transitions, but wait!
Aren’t they often the same thing?
Just like my sister-in-law has a child leaving the nest and the years of younger children needing her full-time attention are over, I am almost ready to go back to full-time work but have a child with special needs that are best met right now by me. I am making a transition from full-time mother to career, but I’m not at the end goal yet.
And that’s okay.
Ultimately, new chapters in our lives come with interruptions. It isn’t usually a smooth glide from one chapter to the next. Just like a well-written novel, the last few pages of a chapter must guide the reader to the drop-off where the story picks back up again with a turn of the page. If one chapter ended with a cliffhanger: “and he jumped,” to the start of the next: “but landed on a pile of bushes,” wouldn’t we want the author to fill in some of the blanks for us, at least after the fact? We would feel cheated if we didn’t experience some of the in-between moments and before moments. What made him jump? Why was there a bush there? Did anyone see it happen?
These shifts in life stages are interruptions in our plans. They are the in-between moments.
For me, it’s not time to work 40 hours outside the home again. That dream is interrupted by another one: Motherhood. I didn’t know that as we launched the last child into school, we’d uncover areas of concerns that would send me to five specialists. My plans were to start earning funds for the one heading to college in a few years.
Five specialists and two regular therapies were not in my plans.
They were not wanted interruptions.
But they did get us ready for whatever comes next. I can multitask like a fiend now! I know when to slow things down. The right job will be there when I need it—and my son will be in a better place to manage his own care as he grows.
I’m not sure we’re meant to abruptly depart something old to engage in something new without some processing.
That’s why transitions are to be embraced, why interruptions ultimately serve us.
Not only do they make us more flexible, but they pave a way for what is next. They give us some time to get a grip.
After the death of Moses, the Lord spoke to Moses’s assistant Joshua.
Joshua 1:9, ESV, the Lord speaking to Joshua
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."
Um, what is He saying here? To be strong, courageous, unafraid, even hopeful (not dismayed). Why? Because God was with him and wasn’t going to leave him. If you know anything about biblical history—even if you’ve watched The Ten Commandments or The Prince of Egypt—you know Moses was a big deal. Imagine the emptiness upon losing his leadership. After receiving God’s commandments, living through the plagues in Egypt, participating in a mass exodus, and wandering in the desert together, suddenly Moses was
The void was palpable.
How about years later when the Israelites were in exile in Babylon? Exile is a pretty significant interruption. An unwanted move. A transition to a different culture even.
Jeremiah 29:1-2, ESV, Jeremiah the Prophet speaking
These are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders of the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.
This was after King Jeconiah and the queen mother, the eunuchs, the officials of Judah and Jerusalem, the craftsmen, and the metal workers had departed from Jerusalem.
But God responds: “I’ve got this. There’s a plan ahead for good things.”
Jeremiah 29:11, ESV, Jeremiah the Prophet speaking
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
Let’s be honest: Transitions always need a few moments of mourning what was so we can move on to what is. If we skip the mourning part, we get stuck.
Are you crossing a bridge of transition (job, relationship, season of life, geographical move, etc.)? Have you taken the time to mourn properly?
Does it help you to know there’s a plan and purpose to your interruption and that you are being prepared for something just ahead, something perhaps still covered by fog, not completely visible?
Can you embrace the process and trust the One Who wants to walk you across that bridge? He has “plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
Will you trust Him?
Author Bonnie Lyn Smith writes about parenting, marriage, mental health advocacy, special education, faith in the valleys of life, the healing cloak of Jesus, drawing healthy boundaries, relational healing, renewing our minds, walking with a Holy God, and much ado about grace. Join the conversation at Espressos of Faith.
Her book, Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day, offers anecdotes on all of these subjects and Scripture for each situation as well as Book Discussion Questions for deeper exploration.