Nov 4, 2011Find joy today, Heal from the past

I’m in that place called Transition. Have you been there before? Have you navigated it? I have. I am. And I will again. I’m wondering what is next, mainly in my career. Thankfully (as far as I know), I’m not moving. Yet I still feel that same unsettled, achy emotion, and I find myself spacing out too much.

Thinking about transition reminded me of an article I wrote a decade ago for In Touch magazine. I’m posting it here in hopes that it will encourage those of you walking through the crazy topography of transition.

The packing tape barely ripped off our boxes,  I noticed a wriggling motion behind the couch. There, crawling up the wall with tail poised to sting was a scorpion. I don’t know why I knew it was a scorpion; it’s not like I’d ever seen one in Seattle, the place I grew up. Now in East Texas, 2320 miles from home, our rental was infested with these venomous foes. That same week a downburst storm blew through, throwing limbs horizontally and snapping hundred-year-old trees like they were pretzel sticks.

In our eleven years of marriage, my husband Patrick and I have moved seven times. In seven months, we’ll move again—this time packing our bags for Southern France to be church planters. Along with us, roughly one in five Americans will move this year.

Through all the box-packing, mail-forwarding, utilities-connecting chaos, the Lord has taught me the importance of transitional dependence—trusting Him in the midst of box packing and unpacking.

Leaving our comfort zones

One surprising gift of moving is that it takes us away from everything comfortable. Finding a grocery store, locating a reliable doctor, navigating new streets—all these foster transitional dependence on the Lord. When we moved from latte-sipping Seattle to a small East Texas town, we experienced a thirty-degree temperature change, from a mild and happy 75 to a hell-licking 105. No matter how fast I drove, our ice cream pooled by the time I pulled in the driveway. Isaiah 58:11a became our comfort when we navigated life outside of our comfort zones: “The Lord will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones.”

The beauty of the moving adventure is that we have the unique opportunity to hold God’s hand when bewildering situations arise. When a man complimented my ham and bean soup by telling me, “It tastes just like my Mama’s possum stew,” I could hold on tight to the Lord and marvel at how diverse His world is.

Moving is missional

Sometimes God calls us to move away from home. Sometimes He asks us to move to places we’d rather not. Part of transitional dependence is developing such an intimate relationship with God that we have a heart that says yes to the excruciating things. The key to surviving and living victoriously in a move is to view everything through the lens of God’s kingdom. Perhaps He has people in our new locale who need to hear about Him from our lips. Perhaps He wants to teach us something about our marriage. Perhaps He wants to teach us to depend on Him in new situations instead of living our lives in fear.

There is a blessing in obeying God as we move. Consider Jesus’ words: “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life.” (Luke 18:29-30)

His reward, according to Luke, is for now and later. He will bless us with peace now, just as He gave my husband Patrick and I peace to endure over 150 scorpions. David points to God’s goodness now when he declared, “I would have despaired unless I had believed I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” (Psalm 27:13) God will also bless us later with reward. Every sacrifice we make, even moving where He guides us, is chronicled  and rewarded by Him.

Our true home

Likewise, moving helps us understand where our true home really lies—in heaven. In a transition, things break. We have painful goodbyes. We mourn the loss of familiarity. As humans, we all want to live the trite sayings we write in yearbooks: “Never change. Stay the same.” The truth is, nowhere on this earth is home. Nothing, not even the bucolic cabin in the woods or the English cottage we’ve dreamed of will ever ultimately feel like home.

Jesus said, “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, you may be also.” (John 14:2-3)

In the final scene of The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis, a unicorn passes from death to life, from earth to heaven, and exclaims, “I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it ‘til now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this one.” (196) Everything amazing about our relationships on earth, every home that brings good memories, is a foretaste of the beauty of our real home, heaven. On earth, life is transitory—a series of goodbyes. Our true home in heaven is one long hello, and moving helps us remember that.

Worry and fear don’t help.

When it’s time to relocate, there will be glitches, disappointments, and things that don’t work the way we want them to. My knee-jerk reaction in the midst of transition is to worry and fret. I ask a lot of questions like, “What if we don’t sell our house? What if we can’t find a new home? What if the school system is bad? What if we can’t find a church? What if I don’t make friends? What if my children kick and scream through the entire move?”

God’s promise is that He will hold us through the pain of transition. He may not smooth out everything the way we would want it. (I certainly didn’t want to cohabitate with scorpions.) But, He holds our worries as we place every one of them in His hand. Jesus encourages both movers and non-movers, “Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34) God promises us that no matter where we hang our art, He will be there.

Moving is an apt metaphor for life’s inevitable transitions. No matter if we are packing boxes or packing lunches for our daughter’s first day of school, it’s important we lean on God when change knocks again on our door. Learning transitional dependence helps us face a barrage of bewildering circumstances—having a child, securing a new job, grieving the loss of a parent, feathering the empty nest, aging, changing churches, suffering through an illness. No matter what our current situation is, whether we’ve been in our homes thirty years or thirty days, God promises in Deuteronomy 31:8 that He will go before us in every changing circumstance: “And the Lord is the One who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear, or be dismayed.”

He will walk us through every transition, teaching us joyful dependence along the journey.