There was a time in my life when I was more comfortable in the midst of transition. I remember once in my twenties sitting on my suitcases in the airport in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. I was wearing a long, billowy skirt, a t-shirt, and my favorite Jesus sandals looking like the quintessential Christian teen on a mission trip. I was waiting to get picked up for my summer-long training on tribal missions. Even though I had been traveling for over 24 hours and hadn’t bathed in much longer, I felt peaceful and hopeful. I was excited about an adventure, of having new places and faces to look at.
While I sat there thinking about what was ahead, two people from my team showed up. One was very tall with a reddish, brown pixie cut about the same age as me. She too was wearing a long flowing skirt and t-shirt and big, dark-rimmed glasses. The other person was clearly an adult who was used to living in this area. His hair was gray and short, and he wore khaki shorts, a polo and tennis shoes.
“Hi, Tatyana! I’m John!” He smiled broadly and reached out to help me with my bags. “You’re the last one we were waiting for. The rest of the team is in the van.”
I picked up my bags and helped carry them to the van while the other girl and I quickly exchanged names and where we were from. They loaded our bags into the back of one pickup truck that with its faded and chipping paint looked like it had been through a lot, already mostly full with suitcases, and then had a second pickup truck with a canopy for the other students. Each side had a long wooden bench though some people were opting to stand.
As the trucks trudged up the winding and rutted dirt roads to the camp where we would be staying, I saw the wisdom in standing. Every bump that launched us into the air and subsequent landing was taking its toll on my rear end. Despite how uncomfortable I was, I reveled in the adventure of it and in the breathtaking views. I kept repeating in my mind I can’t believe I’m really here!
Transition as Adventure
I think back to that girl sometimes and wonder where she is. I had felt carefree that summer, excited about the possibilities before me. To my young 23-year-old self, transition wasn’t scary—it was exciting. My physical discomfort or my lack of knowing what was going to happen next didn’t upset me. Instead, I walked in constant expectation of something fun or even miraculous ahead of me.
When I first became a Christian at 17-years-old, I went to an older lady for prayer. I explained that although I was doing everything I could think to do to be a successful Christian, I was still struggling.
I looked her in the eyes and said, “I just want to arrive and just be what I’m supposed to be.”
She looked at me with an expression I didn’t understand then and took my hands to pray with me. Now, many years later, I think I understand her expression—it was sympathy. She knew already that we are always in a state of change. We don’t get to arrive.
Change Is Our Human Predicament
This state of transition has been the soundtrack of history with transition and upheaval marking every epoch. Many of the changes were horrific like wars, famines, and natural disasters. We mark history with eruptions of volcanoes, the conquering of cities and countries, and the like. But transition isn’t always destructive–inventions like writing, the printing press, and electricity have done more to change the world than any battle could. And, yet, for all their goodness they brought painful change into people’s lives.
Our stories are filled with characters who either embrace change or try failingly to stop the march of change upon our world. For example, in the sci-fi film Interstellar, the older brother who would rather hold onto the traditional ways of a dying earth than try to find a new home is painted as the villain. The musical Fiddler on the Roof is basically a musical about change and how hard it is when the protagonist is forced to accept change through the marriages of his daughters. Even Disney’s Inside Out highlights the painful consequences of moving to a new town for a young girl who is growing up. However painful the experiences are though, those who push forward, riding the wave of change instead of resisting it, while not immune to pain, end up in better places than they could imagine.
Hope in Transition
Adam and Eve had no desire to live in transition. Eve wanted to “arrive” just like I do, and it was her undoing. In fact, the greatest people of the Bible were not the ones with impeccable moral conduct. Instead, they were the ones able to live in a state of transition without losing it. Noah, Abraham, David all had to sit in the tension of promises that had yet to unfold.
What strengthened them in times of transition was hopeful patience. One that James encourages us to find: “therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near” (James 5:7-8).
Change is hard when we lose hope or get impatient with the process. Those who fight it are motivated by fear and distrust. It is true that our world is changing, but it has always been changing. The God who was God during every life-altering time period in history is still God now.
It is true that our world is changing, but it has always been changing. The God who was God during every life-altering time period in history is still God now.
I remember sitting on the hilltop that summer in the pavilion that overlooked the mountains. With a thatched roof that was open on all sides, it offered the best view in camp. In the morning, I would sit at the square wooden table staring at the purple-dappled landscape as the sun rose like an angel unfurling its wings in iridescent glory. The transition from night to the morning was breathtaking to behold.
It’s those momentary breakthroughs that happen in our lives that give us hope in the midst of transition. It’s the sweetness of beauty when we aren’t expecting it, and the reminder that not all transition means discomfort. Those glimpses remind us that we do have the hope of arriving one day and that is a gift that will never be taken away.
Published first on Mudroom Blog.