“You have no idea what the new country looks like. You know the ways of the old country, its joys and pains, its happy and sad moments. You are being asked to trust that you will find what you need in the new country.” – Henri Nouwen
Transitions. Change. Getting unstuck. Moving forward. Leaving what was behind and moving toward something new.
Most everyone I know is in some form of transition or change or trying to get unstuck or attempting to move forward and lean into something new. It’s not an easy task. It’s scary. It’s taxing. It’s confusing. It’s exciting. It’s hard.
A few weeks ago at our House of Refuge, the question we pondered together was centered on change—how we have learned from it in the past, what we’re learning about it now. Oh, the sharing was so pretty (and messy).
It makes me think of the Exodus story and the journey of the Israelites out of Egypt into the direction of the Promised Land. It was a long journey and didn’t quite go the way they had hoped. They wandered. They complained. They wanted to go back to bondage. They were deeply afraid of the realities of the new country.
That generation didn’t even make it into the Promised Land after all that time; the new blood behind them were the ones who ended up forging through.
It’s easy to point to the Israelites and find all the ways they were messed up, but I don’t like to do that for long because I am just like them. I get afraid of the giants, the wild animals, the unknowns in my future.
It’s so hard to move from the old to the new.
Conversations about change and transitions always make me think of one of the most helpful tools I’ve seen related to making shifts in our lives from one place to another. It’s from my dear friend, wise pastor, and seminary professor Deborah Loyd, who lives in Portland. She calls it The Change Model, but around here we always joke and call it The Birth Canal.
No matter what we call it, it’s a reminder of what transitions look like and helps us consider how to keep moving forward even when we want to turn back.
Here’s a simple diagram that describes it:
To move from where we are now to somewhere new, we will have to go through what I like to call “The Squeeze,” where the path gets tighter and tighter, harder and harder, more and more difficult to keep going. It’s here that we and the Israelites start to sound the same:
“This is too hard, I can’t do it.”
“I’d rather just go back to what was familiar.”
“Maybe I wasn’t supposed to try this.”
“Maybe I heard God wrong.”
“I just am not a good enough _________”
“I can’t, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t!”
These are real thoughts not to be dismissed, but we have to be so careful to not let them pull us back to the old. Fear is a powerful force that keeps us from new life.
I added two small things to Deborah’s hourglass diagram that help expand what happens to us in the middle of change—the forces keeping us stuck as opposed to the forces propelling us forward. The little thought bubble at the bottom are all the words or phrases that we say to ourselves or we hear others say to us that pull us back toward Egypt. The bubble at the top are the things we hear from inside us, from others, from God, that help us keep moving toward something good and new.
Here are a few of mine:
I have no idea where you find yourself on this diagram but my guess is so many of us reading know all about The Squeeze.
Maybe you are in the midst of a shifting faith, a divorce, making a dream a reality, a changing relationship, a new job, healing from the past, a coming-out-of-the-fog-and-trying-to-find-life-again, a … (you fill in the blanks).
So many of us are in the middle of some kind of change and in the midst of the hope of something new.We are also finding ourselves doubting, tired, afraid, confused, and a bit overwhelmed.
Yes, we want to move forward but we have a lot of forces trying to pull us back, too.
Here are a few questions to consider as we think about some of these transitions:
- Where are we moving from? What is the old that we are trying to leave behind, our Egypt? What change are we hoping to make?
- What are we wanting to move toward? Is it something practical like a new job or relationship or a new way of being?
- Are you at the beginning of your journey? In The Squeeze? Or starting to come out the other side?
- What are the voices that you hear pulling you back?
- What are some ways you feel or hear God encouraging you to keep moving? What is God saying to you that is helping sustain you?
- What is a word that describes what you are feeling right now on the journey?
If you want to, here are some prompts for a short prayer as we keep moving.
God, I need your help to …
Some of the voice pulling me back are saying …
But I hear yours reminding me …
I am weary of …
But I keep being strengthened by …
Please give me courage to keep moving.
I’m beginning to accept that life is really just a series of transitions, of moving out of one thing, into The Squeeze, experiencing some relief (sometimes short-lived, sometimes elusive, sometimes nothing changes on the outside but our souls are stirred) and then somehow re-entering the cycle again.
I don’t want to whine about it all the time (just sometimes!) I don’t want to settle for the easy way. I don’t want to stay stuck. I don’t want to keep longing for Egypt.
I don’t want to go back.
I want to keep moving through The Squeeze to new life again and again and again.
ps: This is an old song by Sara Groves, Painting Pictures of Egypt, but it’s a great one to consider. SheLovelys, let’s not go back.