“I just want things to go back to normal.”
When there’s a shift in our lives, disorientation often follows. And it seems like the harder we try to get back to the predictable security of the mythical Land Of Normal, the less we recognize the street signs and landmarks of the terrain around us.
Just as Mrs. Lot learned when she looked back as her family was fleeing the doomed cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19:1-26), there is no going back.
God is always calling us to move forward. There’s no way to get there except by moving through the crossroads of transition. Business writer and consultant William Bridges, author of Managing Transitions: Making The Most Of Change, says that every transition includes three phases:
1. Letting go of the old ways and the old identity people had. This first phase of transition is an ending.
2. Going through an in-between time when the old is gone but the new isn’t fully operational. We call this time the ‘neutral zone’; it’s when the critical psychological realignments and repatternings take place.
3. Coming out of the transition and making a new beginning. This is when people develop the new identity, experience the new energy, and discover the new sense of purpose that makes the change begin to work.
He notes, “Because transition is a process by which people unplug from an old world and plug into a new world, we can say that transition starts with an ending and finishes with a beginning.”
Once we discover ourselves in transition, there is a very real pull to attempt to rectify some of the unfinished business we left behind in our Old Normal. With God’s help, coming to terms with those regrets is an essential piece of the first stage of the transition we’re facing. Each one of us carries the sorrow of our own accumulated “if onlies”:
“If I had only finished college instead of getting married, I’d have a better career”
“If I’d have only spent more time with my kids, they’d be…”
“If only I’d have eaten healthier and exercised, I wouldn’t be fighting Type II diabetes”
“If only I’d have sold my house before the market crashed…”
We can never turn back the clock to undo less-than-sterling decisions. But oh, how we wish we could! Books like Mark Twain’s Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court, movies like Peggy Sue Got Married and TV series like Lost touch a deep chord in so many of us because these stories (and dozens of others like them) capture our deep longing for a “do over”.
I wonder how many times Adam and Eve replayed the moment they bit into the forbidden fruit throughout the rest of their long lives (Gen. 3:1-7). Or Esau cursed himself for his impatience at trading his inheritance and his father’s blessing for a bowl of lentils (Gen. 25:24-34). Or bitterest of all, the howling accusations Judas heard in his soul after he betrayed the best Friend he’d ever have (Matt. 27:1-5).
Regret tethers us to the past, and sets us up to be haunted by our sinful choices as well as coveting the imaginary idea of what life might have been like “if only”. One anonymous writer noted that his regrets gave what little power he had to a past that didn’t exist. Woulda coulda shoulda are the words of regret, not hope.
Most of us deal with old regrets by either trying to wish them away or resigning ourselves to continue to lug them around with us. Even if we hate the baggage, some of us are tempted to comfort ourselves with the idea that at least it’s our old familiar baggage. It’s been our companion during our journey to this point, right?
But God’s purpose for us in transition is to help us embrace our past in order to advance us into the uncharted territory of our own neutral zone. The Holy Spirit is waiting there for each one of us, just beyond the overwhelming regrets, beckoning us forward into the crossroads with seven words that change everything:
Follow Me. I make all things new.
Ladies, please register today for “Freedom To Flourish”, the women’s workshop taking place at TCC from 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 3. We’ll be talking about spiritual growth and maturity during each season of our lives – as well as the transitions that move us from one to the next.