‘By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down and wept’ (Psa 137:1) is a lament of captive Israelites marching across the sweltering desert of Babylon. Their hope, their Zion, has faded away in the far distance. The comfort they enjoyed, the security of family and the community are now cruel memories. All that they considered precious, is melting away in the red-hot sand they are trudging. Babylonian forces are brutal even dashing their infants against rocks. The extraordinary suffering refuses to make sense. To top it all, Yahweh, their protector, is nowhere. The Psalm is a desperate lament over the past amid precipitous change.
How do we respond when change comes upon us suddenly? Rapid change has become a way of life. In many instances, we are forced into change. Seasons of life forces change upon us e.g., getting married, birth of a baby, retirement or sickness. There are also instances when we deliberately opt for change like seeking a new job or shifting into a new neighbourhood.
In his perceptive book, ‘Transitions’, William Bridges, talks about change and transition. He says change is what happens externally while a transition is internal, psychological and emotional. He goes on to say that if we don’t pay attention to transitions during the process of change, we will come out of change much worse.
Bridges lays out three stages in transition:
Stage 1: Ending of the old: There is losing and a letting go of old identity. There is uprooting from our security. We need to be aware of this critical phase. It is also when others need help in recognising this phase. We will need to look at our old mindset, the old way of do- ing and be open for change. As in Psalm 137, the lament is over our disappearing precious world. But we must internally decide to move on to experience newness.
Stage 2: Neutral zone: when new is not fully a reality. It is a period of disorientation and confusion. We are not sure of the next step and it can generate anxiety. When we have deliberately chosen to end the old, this phase will result in critical psychological realignments and repatterning.
Stage 3: New beginnings: We begin to see possibilities in the future. We can imagine our- selves in a new context. We develop a new identity and experience an energy surge with a sense of purpose. We become confident of acquiring new skills needed for the new situation. Change begins to work at this stage.
Here’s an example: A man and a woman decide to get married. They have lived separate lives and enjoyed the freedom of being single. But now, there is a certain ending to one’s rights and a resetting of other relationships. A period of confusion follows when they struggle with these tensions. At some point when they accept their new life, they begin to enjoy the marriage. This again changes when a baby comes along. Both their freedom and life are severely tested again.
Beginning the process of transition at the ‘ending stage’ is critical. Without transition, endings can be incomplete resulting in a persistent longing for the old while being frustrated at the newness of the present. Such maladjustment to the new can go on for years and even result in a lifetime of bitterness.
We must begin the process of transition with thanksgiving and gratefulness for the old. And move on to newness with hope and expectation that God is ready to do something new with our feeble lives.