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Change is not simply a season in our spiritual journeys; it is a process we undergo for the whole of life.
As her labor pains intensified, I watched in amazement as my typically sweet-natured, mild-mannered wife took on the appearance of Sigourney Weaver in Alien. In one startling moment her peaceful appearance was replaced by a taut jaw, steely eyes and the bark of a drill sergeant preparing young soldiers for the battle of their lives. The thin line of sweat that had formed on her brow began to pulsate in rhythm with her temples.
I wanted to run for my life, to get as far away from this frightening creature as I could. But the next moment she was back to normal—normal, that is, for a pregnant woman about to give birth.
For a moment I wondered at the amazing transformation I had just witnessed. Was she possessed? Should I call the church intercessors? Was this the time to order the anointing oil I had seen advertised in Charisma?
Then I remembered the warning of the wise old doctor who had done everything within his ability to prepare my wife for this moment: "Transition is unlike anything you have ever felt before." Suddenly, it all became clear to me. This was it—the dreaded stage called "transition."
The lessons I learned on that stormy night 15 years ago have enabled me to keep my sanity during many other transitional experiences in my life, both natural and spiritual. Here's what I've discovered.
Transition Is Unavoidable
The inescapable reality of life in the 21st century is "Change, or you will be changed." If there is anything we've learned from the last few years of experience in doing life, it's that the near future holds anything but the expected. We live in the midst of changing times.
Gone are the days of predictability and routine. Those frameworks that have held firm for generations, providing the basic structure of life, have begun to falter. The concepts that have governed business, science, government and philosophy no longer seem to apply. The traditional formulas for interpersonal relationships cannot guarantee the same results they once did.
And no one has felt the pain of transition any more than women.
As women have begun to take a more visible role in shaping our world, they have experienced the direct effects of transitional living. Fifty years ago, it was unheard of to have women as heads of state, industry and education, yet now they lead us capably and successfully. This social transformation has left women managing the pain of personal transition while also dealing with the pressure of learning new skills.
For years I lived with the idea that we were simply in a season of change, only to wake up one day and realize that this season was unending. Transition is not simply a period of time in our lives; it is the whole of life. In fact, transition is the lifestyle of Spirit-led men and women.
It is vital for us to embrace this truth because if we perceive transition to be only a "momentary affliction," then we will be incredibly disappointed when we move from one period of transition headlong into the next. My wife, being the insightful woman that she is, quickly discovered that the transition of labor leads to the transition of motherhood, which leads to more transition in every area of life.
What's true of life in general is also true of our relationships with the Lord. As one well acquainted with transition, Paul said that in following Christ we are "transformed ... from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Cor. 3:18). The end result of spiritual transition is total and complete glorification; anything less than that will keep us on the road to change.
Like ancient Israel, God created us to be a spiritually nomadic people who travel light along life's journey as we pursue the pillar of fire, the cloud of glory and the ark of His presence. We were created for the journey, not just the destination.
Transition Will Redefine You
For this reason, transition can be frightening, especially for those who have defined themselves by what they do rather than by who they are. I have counseled a number of women who fall into this category:
- Working women who quit their jobs to raise children—"I don't even know who I am anymore without my career."
- Married women who have just gone through a divorce—"If I'm not his wife, who am I?"
- Mothers whose children are now grown—"With our last child out of the nest, I don't know what to do with myself."
I recently experienced a similar identity crisis. After pastoring for 15 years, I went through a six-month period during which I wrote, conducted seminars and spoke in conferences but didn't actively pastor. One day during this period, Tyler, my youngest son, came home from third grade with a question.
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