As many readers of my reflections know, 2½ years ago, I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma and began a treatment journey from which there wasn’t a pause until very recently. I’m grateful for the reprieve, because it’s giving my body a chance to regain strength and my mind an opportunity to emerge from chemo-fog.
Across those same thirty months, I tried to work while sick, decided I had set-aside the role of pastor, didn’t know, at first, how my vocation would take shape, began to work as a consultant with the Center for Healthy Churches, became visiting assistant professor of religion at Mars Hill University, and served the Fifth Avenue Baptist Church in Huntington, WV as interim preaching minister.
Multiple Myeloma, multiple roles, and multiple transitions.
William Bridges says there are three stages in a transition:
1. Ending, losing, and letting go.
2. Neutral Zone
3. New Beginning
About Ending: the last day on the job or the delivery date of a project or the final round of chemotherapy aren’t necessarily an end. Clock and calendar time are not the same as as the seasons of the heart and spirit. Closure and completion are complex and nonlinear.
The biblical name for the Neutral Zone is “the wilderness.” Commonly, we think of the wilderness as a place of temptation; and, no doubt, these in-between experiences test our identities, question our loyalties, and challenge our commitments. The wilderness can also, however, be a place of refuge where our pace slows, noise quietens, and stillness becomes possible. Wrestling happens, but so does rest. Separation occurs and, also, preparation.
A New Beginning brings opportunities for learning and personal growth, for new or renewed relationships, and for shifts in priorities, patterns, and practices.
My multiple transitions have not unfolded in rhythm and harmony with each other. Some have happened quickly; others more slowly, and some are ongoing. For some, I am still in search of closure. At the same time, I have the curiosity and commitment which fresh challenges generate. I also feel the need for rest, silence, and taking-stock.
I experience loss and gain, grief and gratitude, regret and relief, anxiety and anticipation, uncertainty and confidence.
These transitions invite me to discover more deeply what it means to live mindfully in the Now. It’s a mistake to postpone what is possible in the present even though the past isn’t completely resolved and the future remains partly unclear.
Now is the time to live alertly and deliberately, to choose freely and wisely, to forgive honestly and mercifully, to celebrate wholeheartedly and joyfully, and to love extravagantly and hopefully.
Now is, as T.S. Eliot said, “the intersection of time with the timeless” and the “still point of the turning world.” It is the portal to the eternal which is always present.
Living here, now, is also the transformational gift and challenge of transition.