God is certainly up to something good in this world, in our communities, and in our lives, but any Christian who seeks to align his or her life with this reality must not be naïve to the difficulty of the journey.
Storms and setbacks will come. Jobs are lost, friends suffer, children rebel, depression, cancer, pandemics, spouses are unfaithful, fatal accidents occur, companies go bankrupt, prayers seem to go unanswered, doubts in God persist. Such moments can be deeply disillusioning.
And it is not just the negative events that move us and unsettle us. Children are born, new jobs are begun, couples get married, new schools are attended, challenging projects are assigned; all sorts of new, exciting opportunities can also spin us into anxious and disorienting places.
Madeleine L’Engle captures one such disruptive season in her poem, “Act III Scene ii.”
Someone has altered the script.
My lines have been changed.
The other actors are shifting roles.
They don’t come on when they’re expected to,
and they don’t say the lines I’ve written
and I’m being upstaged.
I thought I was writing this play
with a rather nice role for myself,
small, but juicy
and some excellent lines.
But nobody gives me my cues
and the scenery has been replaced.
I don’t recognize the new sets.
This isn’t the script I was writing.
I don’t understand this plot at all.
To grow up
is to find the small part you are playing
in this extraordinary drama written
by somebody else.
–The Weather of the Heart, 1978
As we grow older our scripts will be altered, our lines will change, we will not understand the plot at all. I have thought of these L’Engle words often over the last 18 months as I have listened to others’ frustration, confusion, and sadness, as well as to my own.
One of the most important things I know now that I didn’t know in my early twenties is that we serve an unimaginably kind, creative, and developmental God who uses the disruptions of our lives to shape and mature us. These unexpected turns in our stories offer such significant possibilities for how we learn, who we are, and how we serve others in Jesus’ name. Transitional seasons often prove to be heightened times of learning and growth.
But these disorienting times are not magically transformative. Maturity in Christ is not inevitable. These seasons can certainly lead to a deeper, richer faith, but they can also result in bitterness, resentment, and spiritual stagnation. How we respond to these difficult times matters immensely.
As we seek to cautiously reemerge out of the unsettling and isolating realities of the last 18 months, we thought it would be an apt time to host a conversation about these dynamics of change, transition, and growth. What ought we be paying attention to as we seek to navigate this time? Where might the Spirit be offering an invitation amidst the disruptions? What do we and our organizations need at this pivotal moment?
August 25th Pam Edwards and I will be hosting a free online event entitled Life Transitions: What Matters Most?. We have invited special guests Scott and Beth Shaum as our lead conversation partners for the time. They serve with Barnabas International, a ministry focused on the spiritual and emotional health of God’s global servants. For further details of the event and registration click here. Join the conversation.