Transition. Most of us are always in it, but especially at this time of year. Many people are getting ready to go back to school, start new jobs, move to new areas, or get that thing started that they were thinking about while on the beach or on the bus. Sometimes unexpected things happen that force us into transition too.
Transition is not usually easy, even for thrill-seekers. Conventional personality theories hold that normal individuals do almost everything they can to avoid tension and risk. And yet, great movements and beautiful songs and life-saving ideas are often birthed out of great tension. Human labor and delivery may be the best example: the phase called “transition” describes the final stretch when there almost no break between contractions. Most (unmedicated) women describe being so lost in pain during this time that they want to die. But the experience itself is evidence that new life and relief is very near.
The transition you’re in right now is probably taking longer than a labor and delivery. What will it produce? Many women are helped during transition to be reminded of the goal (to have the baby) when they can’t see straight from the pain. Identifying goals with God is helpful if we want to birth something new and good in the world. Otherwise we are prone to transition into whateverness or despair, to become brittle and callous from resentments and disappointments. Our Sunday meeting coordinator, Katie, reminded our leaders this week of our goals in leading the Sunday meeting: we need to connect with God, we need to connect with one another, we need to connect with those who are looking for God. Being led by our goals instead of our transitory impulses and reactions helps us become the life-giving organism we are designed to be.
Maybe the word goal sparks the internal eye-roll from you. Especially if you are a recovering over-achiever or under-achiever. Thankfully the spiritual life does not rely on our achievement. It is more about being part of God’s dream for the world, and becoming like him in our willingness to fulfill it.
Moses is a leader in the Bible that inspires me on this level. God planted a goal in him in the midst of his identity crisis and depression and avoidance. He was insecure about his abilities and reluctant to even try. The task of leading his people out of slavery was impossible, in fact. But he decided to trust the I AM, who was and is faithful to do the heavy lifting.
Hearing and trusting the I AM to help form goals is not about “best practices” or applying formulas. It is more about showing up in a relationship with Jesus. We will have to pray, in the midst of our distractions. Some of my friends who just bought a house are turning one of the closets into a prayer room. What a brilliant way to claim territory for Jesus in their everyday life. It’s the everyday reaching out that helps us get from here to there. The song from Brother Son, Sister Moon based on the life of St. Francis of Assisi, says it well:
If you want your dream to be, build it slow and surely. Small beginnings, greater ends, heartfelt work grows purely.
If you want to live life free, take your time, go slowly. Do few things but do them well, simple joys are holy.
Day by day, stone by stone, build your secret slowly. Day by day, you’ll grow too, you’ll know heaven’s glory.