New year, new goals, new decade, new 2020 vision...but often I sense we’d like the new to come with a strong connection to the old. It seems the “new” sounds clear, clean, bright, refreshing, maybe even perfect, and it’s hard to imagine, difficult to find a way to get there and perhaps even scary to think about. Change happens even when we don’t expect it. My wife is a nurse, and she tells me that all skins cells throughout our body change every 21 days. I have a friend who taught me the phrase “Change is inevitable, growth is an option” and that phrase has led my life and my life’s work in many ways.
William Bridges’ book, Transitions: Making Sense Out of Life’s Changes suggests that there are three phases to transitions and change: 1) Endings 2) New Beginnings 3) A period of confusion and distress. You may experience these in between endings and new beginnings – or a new “normal”.
I think of Bridges’ “period of confusion and distress” as times of “wilderness wanderings”. This image that works for me. It’s been my personal experience that the wilderness is where I struggle. It’s hard to get through the wilderness to a new beginning or new normal. In the wilderness, I look back instead of looking forward. In the wilderness, I fear that I can’t do life differently. It’s in the wilderness that there is confusion about what the new will be and clarity regarding what the old was not and how the old habits or patterns can’t go on. In the wilderness, I learn some things about myself and others. In the wilderness, I have learned more and more about the One who made me and loves me and remakes me. It seems that major lessons are only learned in the wilderness and that can eventually bring hope and value to the distress and struggle. In the wilderness, I can find a way to look forward instead of back...but it’s hard to get there and it doesn’t take place right away. It seems we resist because we don’t know what it will look like on the other side or we don’t know if we can do it because we are comfortable or stuck in our habits and ways of life - habits and ways of life where we see that change is needed.
Change and transitions can include health struggles, career changes, a new season of life, grief and loss, new habits and patterns, even new opportunities and new people in our lives. Some of that happens without our choosing. So much of this even brings us joy. But it still means change.
I am grateful for the power and peace placed within me by God’s grace that has led me and continues to lead me through the wilderness into new beginnings and new places of comfort. I’m grateful for those who have walked with me through the wilderness. I also appreciate the trust given to me as I have been with others through their times of change and transition. As one has said, “Not all who wander are lost.”