Change vs Transition – Finding myself in the Neutral Zone

   “There is no sin punished more implacably by nature than the sin of resistance to change”    ~Anne Morrow Lindbergh

We live in a constantly changing world and no better indicator is nature itself, which is always in transition from one state to another.  Transition is not just a nice way to say change. It is the inner process through which people come to terms with a change, as they let go of the way things used to be and reorient themselves to the way that things are now. In an organization, managing transition means helping people to make that difficult process less painful and disruptive.

“There is a tyme for departure, even when there’s no certain place to go.” ~ Tennessee Williams

The words change and transition are often used interchangeably. In truth, they have very separate and different meanings. Change is a one-tyme occurrence: we change jobs, change clothes, change living arrangements. Change is a shift from one person, place or thing to another. Transition is the ongoing process of dealing with a change. Transition is letting go of how things were and embracing how things might become. Transition is a shift from one state of being to another.

Since announcing I would be leaving my position within the ministry I worked, I’ve had people ask why I would leave a established  ministry & leadership role ? Other have congratulated me, tell me they admired me, and even go so far as to say they wish they had the same amount of faith I have. When we resist transition, we resist one or more of the three phases of its makeup. We resist letting go of the old; we may resist the confusion of the in-between neutral zone state; or we may resist the uncertainties of making a risky new beginning.

This past week a friend of mine in Sydney Austria emailed me a letter with a chapter of a book enclosed.  It is a chapter from the book, The Way Of Transition: Embracing Life’s Most Difficult Moments by William Bridges

William Bridges in his work refers to transition as a way we all come to terms with change. His view is that change can be seen as a situational shift, such as getting a job, changing houses or playing a new sport. Transition on the other hand is a process of letting go of the way things used to be and taking hold of the way they subsequently become. And in between the ‘letting go’ and ‘taking hold’ again there is a chaotic but potentially creative ‘neutral zone’ where things are not the old way but really aren’t the new way either.

In this chapter, the author makes the point that throughout Scripture, we see cowardly men and women consistently picked by God to accomplish great things.  He quotes Erwin Mcmanus:

The history of God’s people is not a record of God searching for courageous men and women who could handle the task, but God transforming the hearts of cowards.”

I totally relate!

If that is to hard for you to image? Look at what God did & how he used these guys:

Noah turned out to be a drunk.~ Abraham was too old.~ Isaac was a daydreamer.~ Gideon which means “Destroyer,” or “Mighty warrior,” was a coward.~ Jacob was a liar.~ Leah was ugly.~ Joseph was abused.~ Moses couldn’t talk.~ ~ Rahab was a prostitute.~ Jeremiah and Timothy were too young.~ David was a peeping tom, lying, murderer.~ Elijah was suicidal.~ Isaiah preached naked.~ Jonah ran from God.~ Naomi was a widow.~ Job went bankrupt.~ John the Baptist ate bugs.~ Peter denied Christ.~ The disciples fell asleep while praying.~ Martha worried about everything.~ The Samaritan woman was divorced more than once.~ Zacchaeus was too small.~ Paul was too religious.~ Timothy had an ulcer.~ And Lazarus was dead!

In fact, as I read through the Scriptures looking for it, I am quite surprised to see how many tymes we are told – not to fear, but to be strong, to be courageous, or to be strong and courageous. Maybe God knows something about us frail humans…

In recent years my track record for tough decisions made in faith has begun to shift. Finally, I can look in my rear-view mirror to see instances when God led and I followed. There were tough conversations I had with people, decisions that I didn’t dodge, and even tymes when principled decisions were made instead of ones that might have been more popular.

So how do we move in the right direction from cowardly to courageous?

William Bridge, the author of this book, suggests that what moves us from cowardly to courageous has everything to do with our communion with the Father.  There is a steadying force that comes from sitting with God, and understanding Him more clearly by being in the Scriptures.

In addition to this, there have been some basic questions I have asked myself to help me step out courageously.  Here are a few that come to mind:

1. What’s the worst that could happen?  I know, I know.  This sounds extremely nonspiritual.  A friend of mine is a therapist, and tells me this is a common conversation with someone struggling with fear.  If you walk down the road of worst case scenarios, you might find the worst case isn’t that bad after all.

2. What’s the problem?  Sometymes I just get hung up on insignificant details.  For me, this is quite common.  There is some element to the decision that is hard to get over.  If I can name it, it becomes easier to sort through it.

3. Do I believe God is faithful?  It is easy to believe God is faithful, but do I really believe God is faithful.  Is it a truth lodged deep within my brain, or is His faithfulness something I have experienced on an ongoing basis?

4. What legacy do I want to leave by this decision?  When I’m reminded that my decisions don’t stop once they are made, it gives each and every decision new meaning to me.  It is in those moments I realize my decisions are shaping future decision-makers.  This could be staff, kids, or both.  If I want people to experience God’s faithfulness by stepping out in faith, how am I modeling that for them?

So, what is it tyme for you to let go of? (Yes, I mean you…now) In some area of your life, you are probably in transition right now, so that isn’t a hypothetical question. I’ve always found that asking that question opens up the path I have to follow. It often is a path I’d prefer not to have to follow, but given the change, I don’t have much choice. Fortunately, it is also a path that often leads to personal growth.

In what sense, could it be tyme for you to let go of that particular way to use your talents? In what way are you outgrowing the identity that you’ve been trading on for these past years? And if you can’t get appreciated any longer in your old work situation, is that loss in any sense a tymely one?

Sometymes transitions are not created by change (or at least not by change we can identify), but, by an internal shift in our being: a shift that tells us something is different in the way we feel about certain people, places, or things. Transition can sometymes precede change. When we decide to look for a new job, we don’t just wake up one morning and decide to make a change.

Rather, it is usually an idea that has been formulating for some tyme (transition). We may have been unhappy in our job for a long tyme, wanting more responsibility, a higher salary, a new boss or even a new career path. When we have accomplished the “idea” tyme we are ready to make a change.

So far it looks as if our lives are in a continuous stage of transition and they are. With that said, it is important to develop the skills to live in transition. Transition periods can be the most productive periods of our lives, if we understand that letting go is not dismissing what has happened. Transition is, instead, the period in which we accept what has happened and we search for the path to follow forward. That search can lead us to new and creative ways to live our lives.

Such questions give you a place to start, a path to follow. Every one of them suggests some learning, some discovery that may lie ahead. Each of them represents a gate in that change-wall that blocked your path.

I am not suggesting that this is a path that you wanted to take or that you will necessarily find it enjoyable. I am saying that it is a path with meaning for you, that following it will bring you out somewhere. What I am saying is that, since change is a wall and transition the gate in that wall, it’s there for you to go through it. Transition represents a path to the next phase of your life.

*Resource:  Kevin East & William Bridge

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2 thoughts on “Change vs Transition – Finding myself in the Neutral Zone

  1. This was truly one of the most profound pieces I’ve read in a while. So timely, relevant and easy to apply.
    Transition is not a bad word but in fact an empowering one. Awesome!

  2. Definitely at the Transition stage.. have acknowledged past and now needing to follow a path forward.. Great change is ahead.. Thank you 🙂 Enjoyed reading this and you’ve given me more motivation.

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