12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.
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Transitions in life are hard. They mean that one part of your life’s story is over and a new one is about to begin. They are the space between where faith is tested and fear fights to creep in. They are a temporary no man’s land that we have to walk through in order to grow. As we walk through them, it’s hard to see what’s coming next. The territory is so unknown to is that we put our attention and focus on the transition rather than on where we’re being transitioned to. We question God’s providence in our situation during these times.
I remember one of the first lessons I learned working in a child care center was with transitions. Kids hated transitions as much as adults. I learned that if I told them we were going to be making a change in activities in a few minutes, it would give them time to finish what they were doing and to prepare mentally for what was coming next. Now, when I talk to sales reps, I talk to them about transitions in the sale. It’s important for the buyer to know where they are in the sale and what’s coming next. I even encourage them to share with the buyer the why behind the transition.
As I’ve thought about all of that, I started wishing God would give us the warnings about transitions approaching in our lives and the why’s behind them. As I prayed about it, God reminded me how many times Jesus told the disciples what was going to happen to Him in Jerusalem and why. They never heard a word of it and were shocked in the Garden of Gethsemane. They entered a time of transition between having Jesus walk with them daily and having the Holy Spirit coming as their guide. Like us, they were confused, frightened and wondered where God was in the transition.
God speaks to each of us daily. He says things we ignore or don’t want to hear so we block Him. We use our selective hearing when He speaks of things that scare us. The disciples heard Jesus tell them about the transition, but they weren’t listening. Even when we know a transition is coming, it’s still natural to be scared. We’re afraid of change. The last few years have taught me that change is necessary for growth. When we fight it, we fight growing, we fight the future God had for us and we fight God’s will. Our times of transition help prepare us for the change. They grow our faith and trust in God’s plan for our life. It’s something we can only see when we take the time to look back.
Imagine if Peter and the others had stayed locked up in their house and never went to the upper room. Out of 500 people whom Jesus told to go and wait, only 120 made it through the transition. They were tough enough to stick it out and trusted that God had something more on the other side of the transition. As He did for them, so He does for you. God has something greater for you on the other side of this time of transition. It may take longer than you expected, but hang on. The reward will be worth it. The growth you will experience will be like no other time in your life. Don’t give up in the time of transition. Hold strong to your faith and trust God to see you through.
I once heard the story of a newly wed couple who were hosting all of their family in their home for the first time. The young lady was so excited to be cooking for her mom and grandmother. While she was preparing the meal, her husband noticed she cut off about a third of the roast and put it away before starting. Her husband asked her why she did that. She replied, “I don’t know. That’s how my mom always did it.” They found the mom and asked her why they cut off a third of the roast. She replied, “I don’t know. That’s how my mom always did it.” All of them went to where the grandmother was and asked her why she cut off a third of the roast. She replied, “Because I never had a pot big enough for an entire roast.”
For over 40 years, the next two generations had been doing what was previously done just because it had always been done that way. They didn’t even know why. How many things do we do in life without knowing why and just because that’s how it’s always been done? How much have we wasted because we were so resistant to change that we never questioned the way we do things? That’s really what the problem is. We don’t like change so we never question why things are done a certain way.
When life gets flipped upside down, we get unexpected surprises, job changes, life changes or whatever, we fight them. We don’t do it because we’re opposed to that particular thing. We do it because we’re opposed to change. We like to know what tomorrow will bring. There’s security in doing things the way we’ve always done them. We know exactly what we’ll get because we’re only doing what we’ve always done. The problem is that things change. Times change. Life changes. We can be open to what God is trying to do or we can fight Him and try to hold onto our routine of doing life how we’ve always done it.
God isn’t opposed to change. In fact, He’s all for it. In Isaiah 43:18-19, God said, “Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand new.” God understands that change is how we grow. He wants to do something brand new in our lives, but we’re too busy going over the past and how things have always been. God said to get your mind out if the past and into the present. He understands that change is a part of creation. He just wants us to be willing to go through that change so He can do something new in your life.
What changes has God been trying to make in your life, but you’ve been to caught up in the past to allow Him to do it? Why have you really been opposed to the changes He wants to make in your life? Change is His way of keeping you close to Him. When you get caught up in doing things the way you’ve always done them, you remove yourself from a life of walking by faith. Instead, you are walking by routine. God wants to challenge you and to grow you. He can only do that through change. He can only get you to walk by faith if He can get you out of the past. What can you do today to embrace the change God wants to do in your life?
If you ever watch a gecko, you’ll notice that they blend in to their environment really well. They have an ability to change colors so they fit in wherever they are. They change colors and patterns as part of their defense mechanism. Once their environment changes, so do they. Their life doesn’t change even though their external appearance does. Contrast that with a caterpillar who enters a cocoon and emerges as a butterfly. His change is permanent because he underwent a transformation and not just a quick change. His life is different in everything he does after his change.
That’s the difference between change and transformation. Change is temporary and doesn’t really affect who you are. You adapt to the hanging environment around you, but then once that is over, you go right back to being who you are. I’m familiar with this because I’ve lived that way. I’d change my colors to reflect the environment of the people I was around. When I was at church, I’d use my head knowledge of the scriptures to wow those in the environment around me. I blended in pretty well. I knew what to say, how to say it and when to say it.
When I was out with certain friends, I was able to change my colors to reflect that environment. I could tell jokes that would make my mom scrape my teeth with Ivory soap. I could be rude, crass and everything they expected me to be. I knew what to say, where to go and what to do. I fit in well in their eyes. I blended in with the group. Isn’t that what we really want? To blend in, be accepted and to be a part of the group. So we change who we are temporarily to reflect the environment we’re in. We become someone else in hopes of being accepted. When we get back home and it’s just us and no one else, we change back to our real colors.
It wasn’t until I was transformed though, that I became someone else. I can look back at the person who I was before my chrysalis and see a completely different person than I am now. Change is temporary, while transformation is permanent. Change is easy, transformation is painful and hard. It took being in a cocoon of pain and suffering to permanently change me. I grew wings through the suffering and my whole mindset changed. I began to see life differently and no longer had to adapt to my environment because I could rise above it.
When God saves us, it’s not a temporary change. It’s a transformation. It requires painful separation from who we once were to who we’re becoming. It means we have to make the hard choices to leave behind the life we lived before so we can embrace the new life He has for us. Instead of changing back and forth from environment to environment, God desires to continuously transform us more into His image each day. The transformation is a journey that will continue throughout life. I’m done with change and living for transformation.
Who do you find yourself relating to more, the gecko or the caterpillar? Are you tired of trying to change all the time in order to meet the expectations others have of you? Do you wish you could just be the person God made you to be? Romans 12:1 calls us to be transformed into a new person by changing the way we think. He wants to renew our minds and transform us, not just change us. He wants to create something new in your life. Ask God today to help transform you more into who He created you to be.
When I lived in the Middle East, the U.S. Embassy would often tell us to change our routines and the way we went to work. We were told to find a different path, go in at different times and to be unpredictable in our routes. It was easy to take my route to the church each day. I would ride my bike over the flyover, go up a few blocks, turn left for one block and then go right. I waved each morning to the men at the bakery. I said, “Good morning” in Arabic to the furniture makers. I nodded at the guards at the intersections. I was comfortable in that route.
I think we love routine because we feel there’s safety in it. We can do it without thinking and it’s easy. We see the same things each day and they become ordinary to us. Changing routes and routines throws everything off. There are new sites, new people, and new patterns that cause us to have to be alert and to pay attention. We as Christians should be doing this in our lives often. Not only will it give us a heightened awareness of what’s around us, it can increase our circle of influence.
I pray each day for God to open my eyes to see what He wants me to see, but I keep the same routine and wonder why I’m not seeing anything. Changing routines and routes in our lives changes our perspective. It forces us out of the mundane and into the extraordinary. It allows God to reveal things to us that we couldn’t see from our old perspective. It helps us to see other people who need our help that weren’t in our path before. It keeps our lives fresh.
I’ve heard it said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. How can we expect God to move in our lives, open our eyes and change our perspective if we just keep doing the same old things over and over? We have to get out of what is familiar to us. We have to quit asking Him to put people in our path and start asking Him to put us in their path! If we want to grow, we have to be willing to change.
I’m not a person who likes change, but the company I work for believes in it and I’ve learned to adapt. Being comfortable doesn’t help you to be the best. It helps you fall into a false sense of security. It makes you think that what you’re doing is enough. The rich, young ruler who went to Christ was comfortable. He had kept all the commandments since he was a kid. He did what was right. Jesus asked Him to make a radical change to his routine and route. He couldn’t do it and walked away sad. He wanted different results while doing the same thing.
What routines and routes do you need to change? What is God asking you to do differently than you’ve always done? Are you asking Him to put people in your path or to put you in their path? Changing isn’t easy and doesn’t produce immediate results always. It isn’t comfortable so we typically run from it. Don’t be afraid to ask God what paths, routines and routes in your life you need to change. Once you ask, have the faith to make those changes so you don’t end up like the rich, young ruler.
One of the great paradoxes of Christianity is that we’re to learn to be satisfied with what we have, but not with where we are. Our human nature wants that to be backwards. We like to have the comfort of routine, but are never satisfied with what we have. I’m in that awkward state of making the switch from my human nature to what God wants. I’m learning to be satisfied with what I have, but not where I am. There’s this uncomfortableness inside that says, “There’s another level to go to.”
I think that’s where Abraham’s journey started. God told him, “Get up and go to a land that I will show you.” I’m sure he loved the comfort of where he was. He had everything he needed. He knew the land and the people. But that’s not what God had for him. He asked him to move away from those things that held him down. He challenged him to pick up his roots and to move.
It had to be confusing too. Where was he going? What land was he going to be shown? How long would it take to get there? Would he ever be coming back? When God makes you uncomfortable with where you are, He doesn’t always answer those questions. He expects you to trust Him and His plan. If we knew the details, we’d probably try to alter the plan. I know I would.
So where does that faith come from that allows you to just pick everything up and move? How do you spiritually pack up and move to a deeper walk with Him that requires more than you think you have to give? I don’t know how to get there, but I do know that it starts with just one step. One act of obedience. One decision to make a change. It’s not the easiest thing to do. I think that’s why so many Christians wander in the wilderness and rarely make it to the promised land that God has for them.
Our fears and doubts keep us from experiencing all that God has. Our logic wants to see the whole path. Our faith doesn’t need to see it. We get to choose which of the two we listen to. When spying on the Promised Land, Caleb and Joshua chose to believe their faith. The other spies chose to believe their logic. Because of their choice, an entire generation was kept out of where God wanted them.
So what’s my choice? What’s your choice? Do we continue to go with logic that says we should stay where it’s comfortable and where we feel secure? Or do we go with faith that tells us there is more and is making us uncomfortable in this place? That’s the beauty of who God is, He gives us that choice. He allows us to decide whether we pack our things and walk by faith or stay in the wilderness and camp where it’s comfortable.
As for me, I’m going to pack my bags, pull up my tent stakes and start walking. I don’t know where the path is heading. I just know that I can’t stay here in this place. I’m being drawn into a deeper commitment, a deeper relationship and a deeper walk with God. He is making me too uncomfortable with where I am. He is pushing me out of this place that I’m in. I don’t know where He is leaving yet, but I choose to go with my faith instead of my sight.