formation friday: transitions

henri nouwen old country new country

it’s been a while since i’ve written a formation friday.  oh, how i wish there was a better way to capture some of the fun stuff we do at the refuge in different venues, but i can’t quite figure out a good system for that. maybe, someday. meanwhile, will just have to share what i can when i can.  in september we spent some time talking about transitions, considering the exodus story and the journey of the israelites out of egypt into the direction of the promised land.  it was a long journey and didn’t quite go the way they had hoped. they wandered, they complained, they wanted to go back to bondage, they were deeply afraid of the realities of the new country.  we all know that generation didn’t make it into the promised land, and the new blood behind them were the ones who ended up forging through.

it’s so easy to point to the israelites and find all the ways they were messed up, but i don’t like to do that for long because i am just like them.

i get afraid of the giants, the wild animals, the unknowns in my future.

it’s so hard to move from the old to the new.

conversations about change and transitions always makes me think of one of the most helpful tools i’ve seen related to making shifts in our lives from one place to another. it’s from my dear friend, wise pastor, and seminary professor–deborah loyd.  she calls it the change model, but around here we always joke and call it the birth canal. no matter what we call it, it’s a reminder of what transitions look like and helps us consider how to keep moving forward even when we want to turn back.

here’s a simple diagram that describes it:

old to new

to move from where we are now to somewhere new, we will have to go through what i like to call “the squeeze”, where the path gets tighter and tighter, harder and harder, more and more difficult to keep going. it’s here that we and the israelites start to sound the same–“this is too hard, i can’t do it, i’d rather just go back to what was familiar, maybe i wasn’t supposed to try this, maybe i heard God wrong, maybe God’s punishing me, maybe….”  these are real thoughts not to be dismissed, but we have to be so careful to not let them pull us back to the old.

fear is a powerful force that keeps us from new life.

i added two small things to deborah’s hourglass diagram that i think help expand what happens to us in the middle of change, the forces keeping us stuck as opposed to the forces propelling us forward.  the little thought bubble at the bottom are all the words or phrases that we say to ourselves or we hear others say to us that pull us back toward egypt.  the thought bubble at the top are the things we hear from inside us, from others, from God, that help us keep moving toward something good and new.

here are a few of mine:

photo 2-8

i have no idea where you find yourself on this diagram. if you are in the midst of a shifting faith, a divorce, making a dream a reality, a changing relationship, a new job, healing from the past, a coming-out-of-the-fog-and-trying-to-find-life-again, a …. (you fill in the blanks).  my guess is that all of us are in the middle of some kind of change and in the midst of the hope of something new. we are also finding ourselves doubting, tired, afraid, confused, and a bit overwhelmed.

yes, we want to move forward but we also have a lot of forces trying to pull us back, too.

here are a few questions to consider as we think about some of these transitions we might be in:

  • where are we moving from? what is the old that we are trying to leave behind, our egypt? what change are we hoping to make?
  • what are are we wanting to move toward?   is it something practical like a new job or relationship or a new way of being?
  • are you at the beginning of your journey?  in the squeeze?  or starting to come out the other side?
  • what are the voices that you hear pulling you back?
  • what are some ways you feel or hear God encouraging you to keep moving?  what’s God saying to you that is helping sustain you?
  • what is a word that describes what you are feeling right now on the journey?

if you are able to, write a short prayer for strength to keep moving.  here are some quick prompts if it helps.

God, i need your help to…

some of the voice pulling me back are saying…

but i hear yours reminding me…

i am weary of…

but i keep being strengthened by…

please give me courage to keep moving.

i’m beginning to accept that life is really just a series of transitions, of moving out of one thing, into the squeeze, experiencing some relief (sometimes short-lived, sometimes elusive, sometimes nothing changes on the outside but our souls are stirred) and then somehow reentering the cycle again. i don’t want to whine about it all the time. i don’t want to settle for the easy way. i don’t want to stay stuck. i don’t want to keep longing for egypt.

i want to keep walking toward more life. 

//

years ago i loved this song, and just a few days ago a lovely friend played it at our house of refuge (we did “bring a song that touches your soul” night and it was so beautiful, hearing everyone’s heart through the songs they chose).  this should be the “making it through the squeeze” anthem.

God we don’t want to go back.

peace and hope in the midst of the squeeze,  kathy

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

11 Comments

  • I also love the Transitions Model by William Bridges. (Transitions: making sense of life’s changes by William Bridges) He says that there are three stages of transition: Ending, Neutral zone and New Beginnings. It is so helpful to have “names” for the spaces we find ourselves in.

    Reply
  • Wow — LOVE that song! You’re right … it is the Squeeze Song!

    Your prayer, Kathy, reminded me of what Baxter Kruger says about Psalm 22, from which Jesus quoted the first verse on the cross. Starts out feeling forsaken … turns to what is real about God’s cHesed … looks back at the mess around … remembers the whole point of the incarnation … feels the depth of our blindness and darkness … has to rest by giving himself into Father’s hands. Many people misunderstand what Jesus is doing when he says those words on the cross … because they didn’t read all the way through. They give up and give in right in the middle of the suffering and dying, without looking past the pain to the purpose Jesus and Father and the Holy Spirit had planned all along … Incarnation.

    The only place where we fit our changes is in the midst of the relationship shared with us by Father, Son and Spirit. Reminds me of the conversation between Danielle and Leonardo da Vinci in “Ever After” … a fish might love a bird, signore…but where would they live? Then I shall have to make you wings!

    Jesus has given us wings … we must trust The Spirit to be the wind beneath those wings. But we still have to jump out of the nest and spread those wings if we want to fly…

    Love you, friend … grateful for you during The Big Squeeze!

    Reply
  • Hi Kathy your recent postings have resonate with what is goign on in y life right now. there are some things I can’t share publically for confidenrtiality reasons but I’ll be in touch by email.

    Reply
  • GAH! This subject!!!!! “The places that used to fit me cannot hold the things I learned” and “I was dying for some freedom and now I hesitate to go” and “The future feels so hard and I want to go back” Um, yes. All the feels.
    Also, you know I love me some kathy templates. 🙂 Here is mine!
    God, i need your help to walk freely into this next chapter of my story

    some of the voices pulling me back are saying “you really don’t deserve freedom” and “you realize are going to &^%$ it all up anyway”

    but i hear yours reminding me that you want more for me, too and that you *still* have not forgotten me

    i am weary of feeling worthless, lonely, and of running full speed in circles

    but i keep being strengthened by my friends who believe in me, visions of what could be, and the hope of a more fulfilling tomorrow

    please give me courage to keep moving

    Reply

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