I’m increasingly amazed at the amount of change in my life. Truth is, maybe it’s always been a cyclone of change. Maybe I’m just getting older. Ok, I am getting older. Am I handling change differently in my fifties? Am I less nimble emotionally and psychologically? Maybe it’s not about age. Perhaps because change is cumulative, there’s a growing pile and increasing effect on my life. I suppose that’s tied to the number of years I’ve lived, but not about my age.
Bottom line: there’s a pile of change. My baby girl is about to celebrate 7 months of marriage to her wonderful husband, Jacob. My dad died this past fall. My mother-in-law passed one year ago. There's been significant structure change in our church staffing. And those are only a few of the recent changes.
Regardless the degree to which I think change impacts me, it always influences my relationships, my thinking and my future.
I’m sure your world is no different. You have transitions and changes that have piled in your own life. My guess is that the changes in your life are similar to mine and at the same time very different. But we’re all in it. Change is real for all of us.
Maybe you’ve changed careers. You used to be married and now you’re not. You’re married now and you didn’t use to be. Maybe you're married now and you don't want to be. You have lost loved ones. And the chair at the dining room table is empty every evening. And it’s honestly very hard.
And in it all… there is and has been transition.
Though your spouse is gone, the rest of your life has continued. Though you’re promised a new position or a new job, you’re still in the former position for another few days or weeks, maybe months. Although you’re now experiencing an empty nest, everything continues in your work, the bills still have to be paid, you’re still living with your spouse. These changes have us in transition in spite of what may still seem "normal."
I suppose it could be said that these transitions, this space in between, is life. To some degree we are in almost constant change. We all live with it.
Researchers who study the mind and our human experience tell us that any change, any transition – whether perceived as good or bad, positive or negative – any change brings some level of stress.
The change is real. And change has to be navigated. And it is stressful.
In this stress I’ve discovered that I can get really caught up in simply navigating the circumstance. This season can become all about lamenting and bemoaning … even begrudging and resenting the change in circumstances. Life can become in this season all about controlling the change.
This change, this circumstance can easily become all my focus…
In my stress, in my self-absorption, who I am at my core becomes exposed.
As I face change, I easily hear the voice of shame that screams: “You’re inadequate” and I succumb and sink in a sense of inadequacy OR I defy the challenge and I power up with pride and self-sufficiency to prove "I’ve got this."
Regardless, I can become completely self-absorbed in the season of change. And in doing so, I am buried by the self-focus of shame… or I am puffed with the self-focus of pride.
Paul writes in Romans 8:7:
“When we’re completely absorbed in self we ignore God, we end up thinking more about self than God. When we do, we ignore who God is and what he is doing.”
You don’t have to have a life of self-centered choices or detestable behaviors to experience shame. “I’m not good enough” can feel the same as being very bad.
In fact, there’s a subtle but isolating sense of pride inside of shame when we look at our Creator and say, “I’m beyond your help. I’m too bad for you to love.”
Call it shame. Call it pride. Call it a struggle to prove we’re okay. We can’t measure up. We’re focused on ourselves.
I find myself echoing the words of Paul from Romans 7:
“I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.”
Ultimately Paul reveals what might be a naked truth about the shame that we all experience now and then when he continues, “What a wretched man I am! Who will deliver me from this death of an existence?” (Romans 7:24)
“When I’m completely absorbed in self I ignore God, I end up thinking more about self than God. I ignore who God is and what he is doing.”
I want to just get through the change – the circumstance – as though that’s all that’s going on. But what if God wants to do something besides just help me through it?
Maybe there’s more change God wants me, wants us, to navigate.
What have you noticed about the cumulative nature of change in your own life? What is challenging you in transition?