My husband has this crazy gift of being able to help a group of people make a needed transition. In our 20-something years of walking it out with Jesus in life and ministry, he’s facilitated major transitions in churches we’ve been in …changing locations, leadership and staff transitions, policy transitions, and another significant one we affectionately labeled, culture shifts (probably the hardest transitions of all).
On top of that, he’s probably the best man in all the world at being able to plan — with incredible detail and expertise — a transition of moving our family from one location to another …mostly from state to state, but that’s another story!
I’m not sure I like transitions. I nest well. Moving and changing unsettles me and tends to make me a little sea-sick …let’s say, life-nauseous. Hives of anxiety well up within me and cause a situation of epidemic proportions emotionally. For me, transitions can feel like someone yanked my heart out and tried to put it back in the wrong place …transplant rejection.
I don’t have the gift of transitions.
Oddly, the thought of transitions made me think of this season of Advent and the transitions in the Christmas story — a wedding under strained circumstances …traveling to Bethlehem for the census …trying to find a place to stay for the night in a place that looks and smells nothing like home …the birthing process …getting used to mommy-and-daddy-and-baby-makes-three, visits and celebrations from unusual guests at unusual times …fearful of unwanted visits from people in power …moving across the border to another country as immigrants — to name a few.
Ironically, the significant transitions that seem to mark us are those in birth and in death.
As a mama labors to deliver a baby into this world, there is a part of the process aptly named, “the transition stage.” Without going into all the details, labor is divided into two stages — early labor and active labor. They call that incredibly active, overwhelming process between “Okay, I’m getting ready to have a baby and I’m packing my bags to go to the hospital,” and “Give me everything you’ve got for this pain! This baby’s coming now!” –transition. Oh yeah…you’re transitioning alright. You’re transitioning from excitement to– if you don’t Get. This. Baby. Out. Right. Now! …well, I’m sure you’ve all heard the stories!
In the beautiful pain of giving birth, Mary would experience major transition as she gave birth to the Giver of all Life, Jesus. She would feel the initial excitement of the onset of a promise fulfilled on to the excruciating transition of physically giving birth to the Messiah Who would save the world from their own excruciating pain and sin. She would experience the miracle of the moment that was foretold to her by the angel, Gabriel. She would finally see the face of her own Savior as He made His way from the darkness of the womb into the light of day…a most humble way to arrive on planet earth!
“Just as the mother knows that her own surrender, care, and faithful readiness must be present along with God’s working and creating, and just as every life comes into being through a working together of God and humanity, so it is also in the highest things,
in the breaking in of divine life.”
When the Time Was Fulfilled
The process of death has another transition. I watched that happen with my own mama. The body begins to get cooler …breathing gets shallow and begins a rattling sound before the bells of heaven ring in that another child has come home …organs begin to cease playing their active life-giving role in keeping the body alive.
Surely Mary didn’t know! How could she know she would experience both the transition in giving birth to the Savior as well as seeing firsthand the horrible transitions in the dying process and ultimately grieving the death of her firstborn — Jesus, the Savior.
But every transition brings change and in this story. Both transitions brought LIFE!
The birth brought the Messiah–the Savior of the world– to live with us …be with us …share our humanity …feel our pain and our sorrow and our joy. The death of the Savior would transition into resurrected life …forgiveness of our sin …stepping on the head of death and stomping it out for good …freedom from our own chains of addictions, rejection and abandonment, abuse and neglect, pain and sorrow. Death would not have the upper hand any longer!
Jesus took a major transition for all of us. He went ahead of us to make the excruciating transition from life to death… and then back to life again so that we could have life now and forevermore !
Now, can I ask you something …
Why did you read this post? Are you feeling the winds of change blowing in your direction? Have you entered that phase from excitement to “Oh my! This is painful! I’m not sure I signed up for this!” ? Could it be that God is birthing something new in you but the pain is overwhelming the promise?
While I usually hate, dislike, and avoid change and the transition process, could it be that these are the very things that bring about the most wonderful times of our lives!
“The night when Jesus comes the world’s darkness will disappear. When God’s time comes great changes take place. Not only are the shepherds of this world startled, but the whole world —
then we are shown something new.”
Christoph Blumhardt, When the Time Was Fulfilled
During this Advent season, you may be going through your own birthing process and the ultimate transition phase may be bearing down on you. Hold on, my friend. Keep pressing through–even if inch by inch! Don’t lose heart. Deliverance is coming when you will experience — as Eberhard Arnold describes it — the “breaking in of divine life.”
Resources for the Season of Advent that bring light into our world:
When the Time Was Fulfilled~Christmas Meditations , Various Authors —Plough Publishing House
The Greatest Gift, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, and The Wonder of the Greatest Gift (a beautiful resource for children and families as well) — by Ann Voskamp
Advent 2017: Joy to the World — by She Reads Truth