An Encouraging Word — Facing transitions

The Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk to a land I will show you. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran.
Genesis 12:1,4

Fr. Ron Knott.2012-wIt’s June, a time for major planned transitions of all sorts: graduations, retirements, marriages and ordinations. This does not count unplanned transitions such as deaths, losses of jobs and major health crises. To all my readers going through any major transition, whether chosen or imposed, I would like to offer you an encouraging word.

Anyone confronted by change knows that it is usually followed by a period of emotional upheaval. Unwanted, as well as the most longed for changes have their melancholy, Anatole France points out, because we leave part of ourselves behind and we must die to one life before we can enter another.

Marilyn Ferguson puts it this way: “It’s like being between trapezes. It’s like Linus when his blanket is in the dryer. There’s nothing to hang onto.”

All transitions, welcomed and unwelcomed, seem to follow a predictable pattern. There is an entry event, followed by a period of exploration and finally a point of integration.

The entry event could be anything that shakes up our present world to the foundation. It doesn’t make much difference whether that event is self-initiated, circumstantial or forced upon us. It is our attitude toward the experience that counts. If we embrace the experience, growth is possible. If we reject the experience, a little more of us withers away.

There are numerous ways to respond to these entry events. We can respond with the curiosity of children and see where they will take us or we can try to run away from them. Somewhere at each entry point, we are faced with a decision. If we say “yes” we have some hope of new life. If we say “no” we remain stuck in anger and depression.

When we say “yes” we enter an exploration phase. We set out warily or enthusiastically. No longer resisting, our minds open up to receive something new. With this new openness, the adventure of transformation can begin.

The initial taste can be so scary that we back out and return to the familiarity of the known, no matter how bad it was. It can also be so empowering that we enter a period of busy-seeking and obnoxious certainty as we try to keep duplicating the initial, powerful experience.

If we don’t burn out or drive others crazy during this phase, we are ready to go deeper and move into a comfortable new way of living, a phase of integration, being our new selves, comfortable in our own skin once again.

The transitions necessary for transformation are scary, but what option do we have other than decay and decline, anger and resentment? When we are through changing, we are through! In the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Faint not nor fear, but go out to the storm and action … freedom, exultant, will welcome your spirit with joy.”

Father J. Ronald Knott

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