By: Rev. Cindy Hickman
Last week Nate Mason wrote a great piece about change and transition. Honestly, it was like hearing a good sermon that keeps coming to mind days later. (If you haven’t read it, you can find it here.)
Nate wrote about change and transition. Change is facing a new situation. Nate’s daughter is going to kindergarten, a new situation. Change might be heading off to college or taking a new job or getting married or ending a marriage. I retired a year ago and retirement was quite a change.
A month ago, my husband and I moved to a new house in a new community. Big change after 30 years of living in the same house. Moving to a new home is exciting, right? The logical practicalities of aging made it clear that we needed a home without so many stairs. We now live in a one-story ranch. Salvation for our knees and hips. A great change, right? Absolutely!
Change is something we manage. We monitor our calendars. We make to-do lists. In our most recent change, we called the movers, we notified the post office, and we filled a lot of boxes.
Transition is different. Transition is the psychological adjustment to change.
We were well organized and when moving day finally came, we were ready, or so we thought, but 30 years of living in the same neighborhood made for deep connections. Muscle memory runs deep when the laundry room has been in the same place for 30 years. I knew the dogs and their owners who walked through our old neighborhood. I met the children next door when they were in elementary school. Now their children are in elementary school. When one of the children who grew up in our neighborhood found out we were moving, she reached out on Facebook “what about the time capsule we buried in your backyard?” I vaguely remember the kids burying a time capsule at the end of 1999 near the cherry tree, a Pringles can filled with important loot. Now the cherry tree is gone and who knows where the time capsule is. Time’s up!
Our new neighborhood seems just fine. Two plates of cookies and brownies have been dropped off at our door along with welcomes and smiles. But still, it is unfamiliar. At night I look out my windows and wonder what the seasons will feel like in this new place. Our house whirs and clicks as the AC comes on and the clothes dryer does its work. Odd noises. I haven’t memorized the garage door code yet. Last Sunday we used our GPS to find a coffee shop.
My logical mind knows we have moved, but my soulful heart hasn’t caught up yet. For me, that’s the difference between change and transition.
This is my personal change, what has happened in my life. I think the world around us is rife with change. Nate noted the changing demographics in our country. We have more older people and fewer young people. Our technology has changed (and honestly, I am barely keeping up!) Our understanding of gender and sexuality is changing. We are gaining a greater understanding of race and rethinking the history of race and white privilege in our country, and we should. Climate change is becoming more evident and imminent. My grandchildren’s’ lives are very different than my life was at their age. Their future will be very different too.
Maybe Iowa is especially susceptible to the affects of change and transition. Iowa is so tied to the land and land is eternal. Our roots go deep, literally. But what happens above our rich Iowa soil is a lot of change. Small towns shrink. Our children grow up and often move away following jobs and their own imaginations. Farmers age.
I suppose the knee-jerk reaction to change is to try to slow it down, to do everything we can to hold on to the past. The past feels familiar. Remember the Hebrews who followed Moses into the wilderness? They longed to return to Egypt. We may especially want to hold on to the past if that past particularly privileged us. (That was Pharaoh’s problem.)
Nate’s excellent article describes transition as having three parts: the ending of the old way, the neutral zone, and the new beginning. I think this understanding offers an exciting way to be church. Churches are often the oldest buildings in town. Our scriptures are literally ancient. We don’t disregard our past. We honor it.
But we are not stuck in the past, at least we don’t have to be. The church can be the neutral zone, holding the gifts of the past but looking toward the future, sifting through what is a true expression of the love of Christ and carrying that forward, and letting go of any thing less.
And as for new beginnings, that is our hope. “Behold, I make all things new!” we read in Revelation. I think so much about the church makes it perfectly suited to lead us through these changing times. What a gift to our people to help them live faithfully as they sort through this bewildering changing world.
Change not easy for sure. We, church people, find comfort in the familiar. Every pastor I know has faced a time of conflict, big or small, in the local church when change came ready or not and demanded transition. Pews, paraments, paint colors, choir robes, hymnals, praise bands, there’s long list of things we have argued about. None of these things are the real issue. The real issue is change and how to face it.
I moved. Packed up boxes. Got rid of what was no longer needed. Said goodbye to people I love. I have not yet found the post office in my new community, but I know it is here somewhere. Exciting and painful. Fresh and revealing. A new home and still homesick for the old.
I went to church last Sunday and there it was, the church at its best, acknowledging that change comes to all of us, honoring the past for what it was and reclaiming its gifts, encouraging one another in this uncertain neutral in-between time, and leaning into the future, accepting it as an adventure with an ever-faithful God. All of it, reminding me that I am part of this, encouraging me to lean forward too trusting in God.
I don’t know if I have done justice to Nate’s fine article. It’s just given me a lot to think about. Looking back and letting go with gratitude, sitting in the stillness of this time and letting grace do its work, peering into the future excited about what is in store. Thanks, Nate.