We’ve been declaring for transformation all this year. Transformation is such a beautiful word, much more desirable than “change”! Far less scary. There’s another word that’s scary that fits in here, too; that’s “transition.” It’s so scary, it’s what Religious Scientists call “death”. (So how scary is that??)
But there are other transitions, too, and a lot of them are associated with the month of June. One is the transition that happens when we move from being single to being married; another is moving from being a couple to being parents (whoa! Is that ever a transition!) The other is the transition from school to the wider world. Some transitions are looked upon with pleasure and pride, others with fear. Some with both. (When I had my first child, I was prepared for how much joy there would be; I wasn’t at all prepared for the terror that came with it.)
How do transitions serve our transformation? For one thing, by definition, they guarantee some form of transformation. But they don’t guarantee whether or not they’ll be happy, productive, expansive, frightening, or tragic. All of that is up to us as individuals. (Like most everything else!) How do we see it? How do we take it? What is our belief about each transition? (It’s done unto you as you believe.”)
Two terms that mean the same thing but are opposite (if that makes any sense) serve to illustrate this point. Graduation and commencement. Graduation is an ending, leaving something behind. Commencement is starting something. How do you see your transition? If you are becoming a parent, is it the end of your carefree days of no responsibility, or the beginning of a life-long complicated love affair? If you are leaving school, is it the end of your education or the beginning of putting that education to use in the world? Even in the transition of death, is it the end of your life or the beginning of the next phase, mysterious to be sure, of your eternal life?
Which way you choose to look at them makes all the difference. You can move through life looking forward or looking behind. Each transition can bring something to you or take something away. Last month when I watched my daughter Julia walk across the stage at Willamette University, heard them call her anme (magna cum laude!), watched her shake hands with Bill Nye the Science Guy, and then pick up her diploma, there were definitely tears in my eyes. An era was coming to an end. She doesn’t know where she’s going from here and neither do I, but we both know it will never be the same. She hasn’t been living at home for a while now, but she was at least in that “home annex”, the Willamette campus. Now she’s for real out in the world. And there’s a certain amount of sadness in that.
But there’s more excitement. The future is as mysterious as it is in any transition, but it is at least endless. It is all stretching out in front of her. And what I know for her, I know for all of us in any of our transitions: God is always there. That’s what never changes. We transfrom through these transitions; we couldn’t without them. We seem to grow and shed our old skins and become different people and sometimes we leave good, happy things behind. But one thing remains the same: God is always there. In every situation, in every day, in every step we take. God is the great consistency in our lives.
Transitions can be just as easy or hard as we choose to make them, and it doesn’t really matter. At heart, they’re always safe, they’re always for the highest and greatest good of all, because they’re always made in the loving care of God. Let go of that trapeze you’ve been holding onto and stretch out for the next one. You’ll have to let go of the first one and for a moment you’ll be hanging in midair, in between, unsure. But there’s always a safety net.
Best wishes to all our graduates, fathers, brides and grooms: Go with God!
Rev. Mary Midkiff