A move, a new job, a marriage, a major illness, the death of a loved one–any transition can throw us off-kilter with a need to reorient ourselves and adapt to some changes in our lives. If we look at each change/each transition as a passage through a birth canal or a bridge into a new life, then we are not so attached to life as we know it; we are looking forward to seeing what new thing(s) God is putting in our path for us to deal with and to learn from. That doesn’t mean that we are to ignore the grief or other feelings that arise, but that they are set in a context that is to come. So we grieve our losses thoroughly and look forward to what is to come.
I’ve just moved from a townhome to a smaller apartment in my daughter’s house. I’ve moved a lot, but this one move really surprised me. Before the move I would drive through familiar neighborhoods with tears in my eyes. See the “lake” in Freedom Park and my favorite Japanese maple tree again with tears in my eyes. After the move I have worked relentlessly to unpack and to settle in. Just two weeks later the same drives produced no tears. I have made the transition. There is still much to discover about my new life, but I am well on my way. It was a surprising transition for me, much more emotional than I expected. I wasn’t sure how living in their home would be, but I have enjoyed the interactions with the family and don’t feel impinged upon. I am feeling a loss of the rhythm of my life from before the move, but I am sure I will find a new rhythm here. Amazing. I’ve lived on my own since Hank died in 2001.
The idea about each transition being a passage through a birth canal came from Brother David Steindl-Rast: “It‘s natural… that we feel anxiety when life leads us through a narrow passage. But every tight spot challenges us to choose between fear and courage. Fear makes us refuse to go on, we buckle like a stubborn mule at a narrow gate and get stuck in anxiety. Courage doesn’t rid us of anxiety, but trust in life, in God gives us courage to pass through the tight spot. After all, we had to pass through a very narrow passage to be born into this world. Every time life makes us face another narrow spot, it offers us the opportunity for a new birth.” It’s the death of an old life and the resurrection of a new one.
We need to adopt a new attitude towards the changes and even the suffering that come our way. They are not God’s punishment or things that are to be wished away because we don’t want them in our lives. For every transition that we take trusting in God and His help in dealing with whatever comes our way, we will begin to look at something we would have hated before with new eyes. First, it is already in our lives and we need to deal with it. Second, there is no judgment or failure on our part that caused it to happen. If we look at our lives as a school through which we are to learn some lessons, then whatever happens to us is just the latest opportunity to learn something new, to broaden our perspective on our lives, to see ourselves and God himself with more open eyes.
I know, I know, this is not the message that our culture sends us so clearly. It’s not pushing away our problems and spending more money. It’s not fighting every change that comes along just because it is unwanted. It’s not—you’re in charge of your life and you don’t have to suffer at all, just make more money and you’ll be fine. These are the messages we are bombarded with every day, everywhere we go.
But, from the perspective of my late 70’s, I can tell you that I have greatly amplified my suffering when I have resisted it. This is what I have learned in my life: that if something new is in my life—whether I wanted it or not—the best way to deal with it is this: “Oh, _____ is here now, how am I going to deal with it? What do I need to learn from this?” No resistance, only openness, willingness, curiosity and prayer. If God is leading your life as He is mine, then we can pray for His guidance and help, but let’s just get on with the task! He sure helped me go through the death of my husband and my grief afterwards.
Here is Brother David Steindl-Rast, again: “Rightly understood, praying means facing the Mystery, facing life again and again. If we do that, life will tell us what we need to do…If we really face up to life…life will inevitably challenge us to change. Openness for this challenge to change is what matters in prayer.”
Imagine yourself standing before God, entering into His presence with all of who you are, ready to take the bumps and bruises of life with Him by your side, open to whatever change comes your way, knowing that He has sent it to you for your own good and for His own good purpose. This is our basic prayer: “O, Lord, stay with me and I will stay with you; whatever happens we will be together.” Leaning on God, trusting that we will be fine no matter what, provides all the support we would ever need.
Questions to ponder over the week: How do I take the changes in my life? Do I resist any and all changes? Or accept their inevitability? Do I lean on God in my everyday life and in its major changes? What difference has that made in how I go through these transitions? Am I willing to go wherever God takes me?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who walk arm in arm with Him everywhere. May we see any challenge as a path to a deeper understanding of ourselves and of God. May we be open to all that life offers us.
If you live near Charlotte NC I am offering a two day retreat on “Living the Two Great Commandments of Jesus October 12th and November 9th at Caldwell Presbyterian Church in The Third Place, 1604 Park Drive, Charlotte, from 9 to 4. Register at firstname.lastname@example.org. $50. total both sessions. Bring a bag lunch. Drinks and snacks will be provided.
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Check out my other website, deepeningyourfaith.com, for information about spiritual practices and more writings about the spiritual life. New posts 2x a month. 9.15.19s is entitled “The things in my life that have really changed me.”
 David Steindl-Rast, I am through you so I, Paulist Press, New York, 2017, p. 192
 Ibid, p. 82-3