Transition Is Like Jello

Transition is an inevitable, necessary and sometimes unbearable part of life. It seems that ever since puberty my life has been filled with transition. Sometimes it feels like I’m living out of a suitcase for long periods of time. I have found that changes that hit us by surprise are harder to deal with than life stage shifts that we see coming.

I have been thinking a lot about transition lately. It all started when a very good friend moved to Nashville in August. Transition intensified with the weddings of two good friends in November. I was the best man in each one. Then I had the revelation last semester that I wasn’t cut out for a PhD program unless I dropped everything else to focus on it. Thus a dream of sorts died.

In December I learned that one of my best friends was transferring to California due to sudden change at his company. He had to either move or face the prospects of unemployment.

Two more friends have left my church leaving me with less connectivity there than I have had in years.

Over the last two years, a number of the students that I have worked with very closely have gone off to college or entered new stages of their lives. Our relationships have changed, which is a blessing because this shows they are doing well on their own. But at the same time, it gets tough realizing that you have worked yourself out of a job.

A good friend died suddenly in late December. Attending her funeral was one of the toughest things I have done over the last several years.

Alex, the missionary who has been staying at my house over the last year or so, is just about ready to go back to the mission field. While I am very glad for him and want to see him go fulfill his call, I will miss the lad.

And last week I learned that the youth pastor at my church, a friend and fellow youth worker, is leaving to take on a  fantastic ministry opportunity in Florida.  I will miss Dave, but I wish him the best and believe that his new church is getting one heck of a communicator.

Hopefully this litany of experiences shows you that I certainly understand what it means to be in flux. To top it all off, I am not sure what direction I want to go in at this point. I feel like a bowl of jello just waiting to be pushed in one direction or the other.

All of this reminds me of one of my favorite movie quotes. The narrator said in Stand By Me, “Friends come in and out of your life like busboys in a restaurant.”  I have sure found this to be true and am okay with that reality. I occassionalyy talk with only a handful of people that I knew in college or high school. It is amazing how time can create distance between people who used to be very close.

I have learned a few guiding principles that make transition easier. If you are like me and know what it feels like to be surrounded by boxes of unpacked stuff, then maybe these thoughts will help.

  • Transition and change is inevitable. You can either embrace it or fight a losing battle.
  • Transition isn’t personal. It just happens. Don’t be surprised when people come and go. That is the natural cycle of life. Don’t feel like you are being abandoned because they probably aren’t leaving because of you.
  • The above statement is true for people in professional ministry. The average pastor doesn’t stay put for long. Don’t be surprised if they move or even change professions. It is very hard to be a pastor.
  • I have learned to hold my friends and relationships loosely. This means that I value them enough to see them go forward in whatever God has for them. I celebrate God’s work in their lives even if it means that I may feel distant from them.
  • Embrace moments with those you love because you don’t know when you will get the chance to have those moments again. This means when it snows… go make a snowman or get in a snowball fight.
  • Keep in contact with distant friends but don’t be a menace. Everybody needs their personal space. Yet it is always nice to know that others are praying for you and thinking about you.
  • Help your friends as they transition. This includes helping them pack, clean up, paint the house, etc. It conveys how much you care, and I have found it helps you feel better about the transition.
  • I pray blessings on my friends even those who I haven’t talked with in a long time.
  • Finally, I may blog or write about a friendship. Mostly this information is private. I use it to help me remember all of those who have impacted my life and what I have learned from them.

Hopefully, these thoughts will help you jiggle in the right direction when you feel like a bowl of jello.

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