I’m re-reading Real Christians
Don’t Dance by John Fischer for the umpteenth time as a part of my daily devotions for the umpteenth time. Next to the Bible this is my most re-read book. This book is in my faith cells.
“So here I am. I’ve figured out what these clothes mean—and don’t mean—and I’ve managed with some difficulty, to get myself dressed and out onto the dance floor. But would you believe it, halfway into the first number some jerk cuts in on me?
“Standing once again along the wall of the gymnasium, where I’ve stood before for different reasons, now licking the wounds of my damaged ego, I inquire as to the name of this intruder, and I find out his name is Life. They tell me he often cuts in on dancers. They also say that when he cuts in, he always cuts deep, so deep that it’s almost as if you have been cut in two and one part is left staring at the other, both open and vulnerable. They say this knife can go all the way to the dividing of soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and that it can even judge the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” P. 81.
Life sure has a way of cutting in when we are bravely and finally dancing our butts off, right? I love that visual picture.
My life has been cut in again. A person who was safe became unsafe. I didn’t see her coming. I’ve had to make a life-changing decision. Change. Life has cut into the fun dance my life has been lately.
Note: I would choose this former friend again. I have no regrets. Such is the season of friendships. My time with her still holds more value than the wounds I feel today.
Change involves the loss of the old (something must die) and the anxiety of the new. No wonder we freeze–when we really should continue dancing.
When it comes to life transitions, there is actually science to the stages. The middle one involves dancing! Google The Transition Model by William Bridges. There are lots of resources available.
Stage 1: The Ending
The first stage in a transition is recognizing that there is an ending. Where most people get tripped up in transitioning well is right here. They don’t have an ending. They have a change. A change is just a rearrangement of the furniture. A transition is you no longer have that furniture. Change hinges on the new thing. Transition hinges on leaving something behind.
I am fully aware of what I am leaving behind.
Here’s a good and common example of the difference between change and The Ending. It’s the young adult making the move out of his parent’s home. Something I as a youth pastor have coached very often. If that young adult decides to move out but still has necessities at home, still has bills being paid by the parents, still is using the parents’ car, tools, cooking ware, etc., the likelihood of that grown adult moving back home is high. But if that grown adult moves out after making endings—such as changing of address, having a social circle at the new address, paying bills for the new address at the new address—the grown adult will likely make the launch into the adult world. You see what an ending looks like now, huh?!
Stage 2: The Neutral Zone
The Neutral Zone is what I have termed holy tension. Holy tension defined is the discomfort of being stuck in between but knowing that if you can make a brave vulnerable decision something holy is going to happen. For me right now I know something holy is happening.
The Neutral Zone has three basic parts:
- You feel full of confusion–which you wrongly believe is a sign that something is wrong with you.
- You want to circumvent out of The Neutral Zone as quick as possible because of the anxiety that comes with transition.
- it is one of the most creative times in your life.
You didn’t see #3 coming, did you?! (Get your dancing shoes.)
Confusion is uncertainty and no one likes living in uncertainty. I feel that one but I also know that something is not wrong with me. Same with you.
Uncertainty can go on for some time and that is sooooo uncomfortable. It is also survivable. It is not permanent.
How can this be one of the most creative times in your life? Because of the uncertainty, because of the confusion, because of the discomfort you are bravely asking yourself the hard questions. Unless you are numbing yourself which will only extend this stage. You are being forced to change your path and slow down enough to hear what God might be saying to those questions. Sometimes slowing down can be the hard part during this time but you must. This slowing down is giving you ways to find Sabbath rest and silence that you couldn’t find before.
Crazily when you are in uncertainty you are paying attention to little things more and seeking God more. True, you may be seeking God more to mostly end the uncertainty but you still are. Thusly you have ears to hear more. Your eyes are more open. The possibilities are wide open.
The possibilities lead to creative juices churning. New ideas. New practices. New relationships. New challenges which you can definitely jump in on.
I have no idea what is next for me. No idea. But my eyes are open. My ears are open. I’m aware of every random conversation that may give me a clue—or the clue.
Which reminds me of something else that is important while you are in The Neutral Zone/Holy Tension. Let others speak to you. Particularly those others who desire for you to live a great story and those who want to walk with you through the uncertainty. This requires a vulnerability on my part, even after having that vulnerability smashed by a friend so recently. Needing to be vulnerable only adds to the uncertainty and all of the other emotions of transition but it is necessary.
Because the “what’s next?” is stirring. My vulnerable openness to all of it will help me find it quicker.
Stage 3: The New Beginning
You would think this would come first. But if you don’t recognize The Ending and if you don’t go through the “dance” of The Neutral Zone, transition doesn’t happen. The results of this good transition is high energy again, openness to learning and everything that is next, a renewed commitment to your identity, and some even better dance moves on that dance floor.
Transitions suck. But…it will bring me to the new. God is still the same and he (or she) is close to me. God never abandons and always invites me into this dance. I will figure it out. I will step into this vulnerable change. And I will do it by dancing.