formation friday: transitions

kathyescobar dreams, faith shifts, formation friday, spiritual formation, the refuge 11 Comments

henri nouwen old country new country

it’s been a while since i’ve written a formation friday.  oh, how i wish there was a better way to capture some of the fun stuff we do at the refuge in different venues, but i can’t quite figure out a good system for that. maybe, someday. meanwhile, will just have to share what i can when i can.  in september we spent some time talking about transitions, considering the exodus story and the journey of the israelites out of egypt into the direction of the promised land.  it was a long journey and didn’t quite go the way they had hoped. they wandered, they complained, they wanted to go back to bondage, they were deeply afraid of the realities of the new country.  we all know that generation didn’t make it into the promised land, and the new blood behind them were the ones who ended up forging through.

it’s so easy to point to the israelites and find all the ways they were messed up, but i don’t like to do that for long because i am just like them.

i get afraid of the giants, the wild animals, the unknowns in my future.

it’s so hard to move from the old to the new.

conversations about change and transitions always makes me think of one of the most helpful tools i’ve seen related to making shifts in our lives from one place to another. it’s from my dear friend, wise pastor, and seminary professor–deborah loyd.  she calls it the change model, but around here we always joke and call it the birth canal. no matter what we call it, it’s a reminder of what transitions look like and helps us consider how to keep moving forward even when we want to turn back.

here’s a simple diagram that describes it:

old to new

to move from where we are now to somewhere new, we will have to go through what i like to call “the squeeze”, where the path gets tighter and tighter, harder and harder, more and more difficult to keep going. it’s here that we and the israelites start to sound the same–“this is too hard, i can’t do it, i’d rather just go back to what was familiar, maybe i wasn’t supposed to try this, maybe i heard God wrong, maybe God’s punishing me, maybe….”  these are real thoughts not to be dismissed, but we have to be so careful to not let them pull us back to the old.

fear is a powerful force that keeps us from new life.

i added two small things to deborah’s hourglass diagram that i think help expand what happens to us in the middle of change, the forces keeping us stuck as opposed to the forces propelling us forward.  the little thought bubble at the bottom are all the words or phrases that we say to ourselves or we hear others say to us that pull us back toward egypt.  the thought bubble at the top are the things we hear from inside us, from others, from God, that help us keep moving toward something good and new.

here are a few of mine:

photo 2-8

i have no idea where you find yourself on this diagram. if you are in the midst of a shifting faith, a divorce, making a dream a reality, a changing relationship, a new job, healing from the past, a coming-out-of-the-fog-and-trying-to-find-life-again, a …. (you fill in the blanks).  my guess is that all of us are in the middle of some kind of change and in the midst of the hope of something new. we are also finding ourselves doubting, tired, afraid, confused, and a bit overwhelmed.

yes, we want to move forward but we also have a lot of forces trying to pull us back, too.

here are a few questions to consider as we think about some of these transitions we might be in:

  • where are we moving from? what is the old that we are trying to leave behind, our egypt? what change are we hoping to make?
  • what are are we wanting to move toward?   is it something practical like a new job or relationship or a new way of being?
  • are you at the beginning of your journey?  in the squeeze?  or starting to come out the other side?
  • what are the voices that you hear pulling you back?
  • what are some ways you feel or hear God encouraging you to keep moving?  what’s God saying to you that is helping sustain you?
  • what is a word that describes what you are feeling right now on the journey?

if you are able to, write a short prayer for strength to keep moving.  here are some quick prompts if it helps.

God, i need your help to…

some of the voice pulling me back are saying…

but i hear yours reminding me…

i am weary of…

but i keep being strengthened by…

please give me courage to keep moving.

i’m beginning to accept that life is really just a series of transitions, of moving out of one thing, into the squeeze, experiencing some relief (sometimes short-lived, sometimes elusive, sometimes nothing changes on the outside but our souls are stirred) and then somehow reentering the cycle again. i don’t want to whine about it all the time. i don’t want to settle for the easy way. i don’t want to stay stuck. i don’t want to keep longing for egypt.

i want to keep walking toward more life. 


years ago i loved this song, and just a few days ago a lovely friend played it at our house of refuge (we did “bring a song that touches your soul” night and it was so beautiful, hearing everyone’s heart through the songs they chose).  this should be the “making it through the squeeze” anthem.

God we don’t want to go back.

peace and hope in the midst of the squeeze,  kathy