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let’s start at the end


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

I wrote a little bit about transition last week. Mostly, it was a word of encouragement to cling to the anchor, God, when the seas of change and transition get rough.

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.

Hebrews 6:19

I don’t know if it is because our family has come through a massive transition with adding another baby to the mix, or if it is because I am surrounded by friends and family members all experiencing some type of life change, but this topic of transition – and how to walk through it successfully – continues to weigh on my heart. If we could sit at a table together, pour the coffee, tea (whatever your preference), I would share a glimpse of what I have learned, and continue to learn, from my own seasons of transition. Since not all of us can sit face to face, I thought I would jot down a few thoughts I have on these seasons of change.

Here are some common transitions that I have experienced, and those around me are experiencing:

1. Going from a family of two to a family of three (or three to four, etc.).

2. A new job.

3. A move (whether that be from one part of the city to another, or one part of the country to another).

4. Organizational changes.

5. Loss of a loved one.

I am sure there are more. In fact, if you are experiencing one that I have not mentioned, please feel free to add your thoughts in the comments section.

While some of these changes are welcomed into our lives, the period of transition – and the psychological adjustment to the breadth and width of these changes – oftentimes takes us by surprise. We know that this change is necessary, but we struggle with the weight of emotions that come with the change.

That is why, in order to successfully transition, we must start at the end.

In his book, Managing Transitions, William Bridges writes this:

Before you can begin something new, you have to end what used to be. Before you can learn a new way of doing things, you have to unlearn the old way. Before you can become a different kind of person, you must let go of your old identity. Beginnings depend on endings. The problem is, people don’t like endings. Yet change and endings go hand in hand: change causes transition, and transition starts with an ending.

Endings are hard. Saying goodbye to a person, a way of life, an identity, is hard. However, in order to move forward, we have to pause and allow ourselves to grieve, to let go, to remember and to release what used to be.

The beginning starts at the end.

And every person is different in how long, or simply in how they let go. Nobody is better than anyone else in the middle of transition. However, the letting go must happen. The recognition that the previous way of doing things is gone must take place.

Again in his book, Managing Transitions, William Bridges talks about the three phases of transition: 1. The ending; 2. The neutral zone; 3. The new beginning.

As time marches on, and as we let go, we can find ourselves in a season of “in between”. We haven’t quite wrapped our minds, our hands, our hearts, around the new thing in our life, but we’re not holding on with a death grip to the old. We are in neutral.

Neutral is challenging because, if you are like me, if I’m not holding on to the past then I need to be holding on to something. But sometimes that new something isn’t quite set in concrete, and I start to feel unsteady. This is when that anchor becomes our best friend. The temptation is to turn around and run back to the old. We start to romanticize the past, “It really wasn’t that bad,” or “Maybe we made a mistake,” or “I don’t think there is any hope for any good to come…the past was as good as it gets.” All normal feelings. Our challenge is to keep moving forward, just like the hands on a clock. Remember the past, and cherish it with warmth and affection, but don’t let the unsteadiness of the neutral zone keep you from moving ahead.

Eventually the new beginning begins. The new identity is formed. The new family is set in place, and each person knows their place. The new job is familiar, and focus is regained. Life begins to pick up speed once again, and the ground beneath our feet feels secure and good.

Each phase in the transition process is necessary. We can’t rush any one of these steps along. If you feel like you are struggling in the letting go, or flustered in the neutral, or if you are walking with someone through a time of transition, please be patient. Be patient with yourself, be patient with that person. All of this takes time.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…He has made EVERYTHING beautiful in its time.”

Ecclesiastes 3

Slater Family | Fall 2017-53

We are promised that all things work for our good. The letting go process sometimes doesn’t feel good. Sometimes it doesn’t even make any sense. This is when we hold tightly to the hope that God is in control, and that all things are in his hands. The season for mourning and grieving is just as necessary as the season of beginning. I think that is why the new must start with the end. This harsh goodbye is only a moment in time, whereas our hope for what is new, what has been ordained by God, will last far beyond our present pain.

Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.

Psalm 30:5

*Thoughts and insights on the phases of transition come from the book, “Managing Transitions – Making the Most of Change” by William Bridges, PhD.

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