Navigating life’s transitions

outloud title bar[notice]A  monthly column by Vivienne Solomons who is a legal consultant turned co-pastor who passionately believes that God wants His people to make a difference right where they are and to stand up for what is true and just. She is also passionate about encouraging young women to walk victoriously with God and she is engaged in a challenging faith journey as a parent of a child with special needs.[/notice]

During the course of last year my husband and I were approached by senior leaders in our church to pastor one of the congregations in the city. So, after much prayer and having consulted with those close to us, in just over a week, we will be stepping into our new role and embarking on our latest adventure.

The last five months or so have been a period of transition for us, both as a family and as individuals. While we are no strangers to major life transitions, having previously navigated both continental (to the United Kingdom) and regional (to Namibia) moves, as well as the transition from the marketplace to ministry and back again (and now back to ministry), we found ourselves in what I like to refer to as a state of flux , that is, a time of uncertainty after our significant life altering decision had been made. This is a state of being I find very uncomfortable, if somewhat familiar. Indeed, the following words (credited by some sources to Ralph Waldo Emerson) often seem to ring true in my own life: What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.

As we all know, change is inevitable. While some transitions might be expected, for example getting married or having a child, others, such as retirement or the death of a spouse, occur as we grow older. And often, no matter how much we may prepare for the anticipated change, we are still taken by surprise and may even feel overwhelmed by the resulting implications.

William Bridges, who helped many individuals and organisations navigate change, distinguished between change and transition. According to Bridges, change is a shift in an external situation, while transition is a psychological reorientation that has three phases:

1.The first phase is the ending – of perhaps a job, the place we call home or a stage of parenting. Even if it is a positive change, the ending is usually attended by a variety of feelings, including loss and grief.

2.Next is the neutral zone, where we may experience ambivalence about the future and be unsure of what to do, which can be unsettling.

3.Toward the end of the neutral zone, however, we tend to feel optimistic about the future, and this is when we enter the last phase of transition, which is the new beginning.

So how can we better navigate life’s transitions to not only survive through them but to thrive in them? According to Nancy Schlossberg, an expert on transitions, there are four important steps we need to take:

1.Take stock of the situation: Consider the positive aspects of the transition, as well as the negative ones.

2.Take stock of ourselves: Acknowledge how we feel in the situation and allow ourselves to deal with our emotions appropriately.

3.Take stock of our support: Identify someone in our lives who can provide support, both emotional and physical, such as for example, running errands. In addition, identify information or services that might be useful in the particular circumstances.

4.Take charge of the situation: Explore our options and then develop an action plan accordingly.

Ultimately, as a believer, I choose to fix my eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith, and to trust that He who has begun a good work in me will bring it to completion.

I wish you well as you navigate your own transitions in the year ahead.

2 Comments

  1. Yes, amen – in times of change, I find it helpful to ponder the ways He has touched and carried me in similar times before, to proclaim the truth of our nature/identity and to focus on the blessing of being alive and looked after by a loving father.

    I’m personally very excited about the next step you guys are taking!

  2. Insightful article! May you abound in strength and grace as you step into your new roles! Many many blessings ahead!!!