For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet he did not sin. --Hebrews 4:15--
It isn't the CHANGE that does you in. It's the TRANSITION. CHANGE is situational. A new job. A new boss. A new home. A move to a new location. A marriage. A birth. These are examples of positive situational changes. A Divorce. A Death. An illness. Being laid-off or fired. Sudden debt or expense. These are examples of negative changes to our situations. Both effect a change within our relationships and quality of life. They can be positive gain changes or they can be negative loss changes. Disasters or Identity crisis, or blessings and welcome new identities. I still recall the day my wife announced that she was pregnant. And with the gift of a simple bottle of "Old-Spice" I received the new name of "Daddy." It was crisis of identity...joyful...but a crisis never the less.
TRANSITIONS are psychological. Transition is a three phase process that people go through as they internalize and come to terms with the details of the new situation that the change brings about.
Transitions are not optional to change. They can't be avoided. They have to be traversed. They can be very rough waters or very rocky roads. They can be the very valley of the shadow of death and we must go through them.
The 1st phase of a transition is an ending. Changes (even good changes) begin with an ending. It is the letting go of the old ways and the old identities. It takes time. And people in transition need help and support in order to navigate the process of letting go.
This is especially true when the change is unwelcome. Letting go of the comfortable and familiar and learning to embrace the strange and new can be very difficult and often frightening. The emotional upheaval can overwhelm our ability to cope and we call that CRISIS. There are things we can do that will help to minimize the impact of a crisis. There are likewise unhelpfull things we can do that will add to the burden of a crisis. We can add to our own burdens, while under crisis. We can add to the burdens of others while trying to relieve their crisis. Trying to be helpful during a crisis takes a great deal of gentle compassion and empathy. Crisis is humbling. And humility in crisis is a great blessing.
Crisis is not the time for the "I told you so's" or the "It's all your fault's". Someone in phase 1, is a person who is hot upon God's anvil, under the hammer of the master craftsman. They are under the hard knocks. And even if they are receiving something new and joyful in the change, they are likewise grieving the loss of what was. I was terrified by the news that I would be a daddy, even as I was thrilled for the event.
The 2nd phase of a transition is the in-between time when the old is gone but the new isn't fully in place. It's what Dr. William Bridges calls, "The Neutral Zone" and what I would prefer the term "grief". Grieving is likewise a process. 1. Denial (it's going to be OK) 2. Anger (Why me?) 3. Bargaining (I'll do anything, but please!) 4. Depression (I'm so sad, I hurt, I have no energy) 5. Acceptance (It's going to be different, but it's going to be OK)
Traveling the neutral zone takes time. People in crisis do not have the resources or the energy to traverse this quickly. Often people on the outside do not have the patience to permit the grieving person the time they need because they have moved through the transition more quickly. And sometimes a person can become stuck in the neutral zone, preferring to remain in limbo rather than welcome the new normal into their lives. Which is why patience and humility are central to crossing the neutral zone.
The 3rd phase is emerging from the neutral zone into that new normal. It actually begins in the background of the neutral zone as the new identity and new patterns of routines and behaviors are created and adopted, and as this new normal forms and solidifies. There come a new energy as these patterns become more familiar and the ability to cope reduces the crisis to manageable levels and a new sense of identity and purpose emerges. As the person in crisis unplugs from the old world and plugs into the new, we see that a transiiton begins with an ending and ends with a beginning.
Successfully traveling through a crisis, will depend on people affected being able to do things differently. This is a difficult process. And our calling as Christians involves helping people through these three phases of transition. It's no small accident that the Lord calls us to be humble and suffering servants. Such people are ideal to minister to the broken hearted and the joyful spirits.
Pastor Richard Boshoven