(and a faithful response to them)
Today is the last formal day of work for the Director upstairs at our Midwest Career Counseling Center. Ross Peterson has been the director for 12 years, and it feels like yesterday when he came. He is younger than retirement age, and is in a fortunate position to be able to retire right now.
Transitions. Some of them are obvious; they are based on age and/or accomplishment. Some of them are subtle; they are based on choices that set into motion other choices. Others are unseen; they come upon us like “a thief in the night”; some of them can be wonderful, like a raise you did not expect, others can be horribly stressful, like what our Member in Discernment (on the way to ordination) member Diane Ollie-Coleman experienced when her seminary announced that they were selling their buildings and property, quickly moving all the residents out of their apartments on campus.
Transitions. It is funny how we make such a big deal about some of them, and such little about others. They now have “graduation” ceremonies for pre-K and Kindergarten students; some of these parties are replete with limos and expensive parties! Others, like my parents’ 60th Wedding Anniversary this week, get bare mention (which is why I’m mentioning it here!!). We used to think that 40 was middle age, and I remember people making a big deal about people going “over the hill”! Now you can buy those famous “black balloons”, signifying “death—I guess” for almost any age, at almost any store.
I believe that people of faith are in a particular position to reflect differently than the majority of people about transitions, and to think about them through the lens of Christianity. Let me start with the first transition mentioned. I remember when our church’s relationship with Midwest Career was, at best, tenuous. When I first came here to the church, it was an almost daily struggle to keep them here. No one will ever really know the reasons why; suffice it to say that it was in part a struggle about ideas and beliefs. Midwest was in the middle of a struggle with several denominations (our UCC among them) in how to assess students for ministry who came from many different cultural backgrounds. Our own Chicago Metropolitan Association had pulled out from letting students go through assessments there, in great part because any student not white was finding their experience extra-critical. Even the white students agreed that was the case. At least three times I learned that there was a good chance the center would leave our church building.
Then there was a transition. First came Ken Potts, then Ross Peterson. Both demonstrated a willingness to look at how they tested students. And they changed, for the better. I remember Ken actually coming downstairs just to say hello and want to know how we were really doing! Today Ross and I said goodbye. But it wasn’t perfunctory. He actually remembered what has happened in the life of our church over the years, and asked direct and supportive questions about OUR ministry here. On top of it, through these transitions, our relationship has moved from the classic “landlord” type, where the only time we hear from them is when we are out of toilet paper upstairs, to staff members feeling free to stop by each other’s offices and visiting, sharing prayer concerns, and caring for one another.
People too often see transition as traumatic. Yes, it can be, especially if it is sudden, and involves great loss. But the issue is to take time in transition to review life. I pose questions for you to consider as you face them.
1) What have you learned from where you were before the transition?
- What blessings should be given thanks?
- What patterns have value that should be continued?
2) What things should be remembered or memorialized?
- Have you collected pictures or videos to continue to celebrate the memory?
- Have you considered a gathering or service to celebrate what has been?
3) Have you prayed about the transition?
- Have you taken the time to allow God to speak to you about the change you are facing?
- Have you considered how God is at work in this time—letting God direct you in what you are/will be doing?
4) Have you assessed the transition?
- Have you considered the opportunity in what is now happening in your life?
- Have you taken charge of the things you can take charge of? (Too many people think that they are helpless in any transition; that is false. There may be some limits, but you have your own power and choices in the midst of any transition).
Transition is inevitable; how we deal with it is up to us. As a people of faith, face it with prayer, discernment, and with the Body of Christ. Bless you in
whatever change you face in life,
In the Risen Christ