What’s Your Focus in Transitions: Re-inventing or Re-identifying?
Recently, the young adult ministry at our church asked me to lead the devotional at one of their meetings. So I did. And having gone through a transition recently, and assuming that those in their 20s will go through many transitions in the next decade, I thought a devotional related to transitions would be relevant.
In the process, I reflected on my last decade. It was a decade of transitions.
From single to married.
From relying (heavily) on my parents, to being a parent.
From college student to full-time employee with a bona fide cubical and a commute.
From just a little money, to lots of money, and then to something less than ‘lots.’
And from Division 1 college athlete to, shall we say, old(ish) man.
Yikes. Or consider it by the numbers:
8 different houses.
5 churches in 4 denominations.
4 job changes.
3 changes of vocation (student to engineer to pastor).
3 (very) different areas of the country (Midwest, Southwest, East).
And from 0, to 1, to 2, to 3, to 4, and to 5 kids, with the 4th being a miscarriage.
I look at that list, and it explains my whiplash.
Transitions in the Bible
The Bible is full of transitions. We see this on the corporate level—from just 2 people in a garden to thriving cities; from one man (Abram) to a nation; from local, tribal rulers to powerful kings; from prosperity to desolation… and around that Ferris Wheel a dozen more times; and from the random altars used by the patriarchs, to the portable tabernacle, to the fixed temple, and then to the curtain torn in two.
We also see transitions on the individual level—Abraham leaves his family; David goes from shepherd to king; the disciples from fishermen to church leaders; and untold numbers of sinners to saints. Consider the upheaval in Moses’ life and his 3 major transitions: from being raised the son of a foreign king, to life as an obscure shepherd, and finally to leading the Hebrew people. Yikes.
What’s Your Focus in Transitions?
If you are normal, your life will be one of transitions, perhaps not of the magnitude of Moses’ or with the frequency of my last decade, but you will have them. And during your transitions, many good questions will arise: What am I passionate about? Who am I now? Who do I want to be later? What do I want to be known for? And so on.
Depending on how we answer these questions, you will move in either 1 of 2 very different directions.
On the one hand, we can ‘re-invent ourselves.’ The way this is most often carried out in our culture, re-inventing is a fairly godless endeavor. By ‘godless,’ I don’t mean that it is the sum of all evil. It is not. Not every re-invention is of the sort that Hannah Montana made.
By ‘godless,’ I simply mean that re-inventing one’s self is typically done without any consideration to God. God is not in the picture. People look inward: Who am I? And they look outward: I want to be like these people and not like those people. The assumption is that life’s outcomes are infinitely malleable, and if I try hard enough, then I can be whatever I want. But again, rarely is God in the picture.
For the Christian, there is another option—the better option. Christians should use transitions as an opportunity to re-identify who we are in Christ.
Transitions are a time to re-affirm that the defining reality of my life is not marital status, nor where I live, nor in children, nor income, nor vocation, nor looks, nor education, nor popularity; but rather, my identity is in this: Jesus Christ loves me and gave himself for me. This was the focus of the Apostle Paul. In Galatians 2:20 he wrote,
It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Paul is saying that in the life he “now” lives—that is, just before, or during, or just after all of life’s transitions—he is resolved to live in the knowledge that God loves him. This is where he identifies, and re-identifies, over and over again.
I’m not very good at this, but I want to be better.
During my recent job transition, several aspects of my job changed as well. And it wasn’t until the transition occurred that I realized how much identity I derived from one particular aspect of my job: if I was doing it well, then I was good; and if it was going poorly, then I was bad.
This is wrong.
Because of the Gospel, Christians have an immovable source of identity: the love of God for them. Because of the Gospel, God feels towards me the same way he feels towards his own Son—delight.
It is significant to me that when Jesus transitioned from carpenter to full-time, itinerate ministry, God the Father publicly shouts his delight over his son. “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).
As my current time of transition ends, and I await the next one—which I’m praying is not anytime soon—I don’t want to re-invent myself; I want to re-identify deeper with the Gospel and God’s delight for me in Christ.
In your next transition, what will be your focus?