By Paula Miller
Life is full of transitions. We move from one season to another, sometimes gently, and sometimes forcefully ushered along with conditions over which we have no control. Transitions can be hard physically, emotionally and spiritually, in particular if you’ve been pushed into it by those forceful conditions. Listed as some of the most stressful events in life are moving, marrying, the death of a person close to you, and the birth of a child. We all will experience some or all of these things in our lives.
Transitions have similar stages. First, there’s the preparation stage. Planning as we can for what is to changing makes it easier when that time comes. Taking inventory of what we have versus what we need for this change is necessary. Having a baby and collecting all the needed items is a good idea to do in advance of the child’s arrival. Most moms, and maybe some dads, enjoy this activity and find great joy in it. Not only do we get to assemble cribs and buy cute clothing and bedding, car seats, and diapers, we get to determine who the child’s godparents will be, and guardians should anything happen to us. As adults, perhaps our own parents are planning for those years when they can no longer care for themselves and need to decide end of life issues.
Next is the doing stage where we get to put our plans, hopes and dreams into practice. Adjustment times vary depending on the change involved. A first-time parent learns quickly how to diaper a moving child, clean up messes, and operate on less sleep than they ever imagined! Soon they are doing it with such proficiency that they have mastered it all… and then the baby turns into a toddler, and new skills are needed and learned. This continues throughout the child’s life.
Just because your baby is all grown up does not mean that your role as a parent is discontinued. In fact, it changes so that, if God wills it, you get the delight of not only being a parent, but a grandparent also! While you may be helpful in caring for the grandchild, your own child still needs you and you will find as a parent/grandparent you are learning new skills. Eventually, that caregiver role can change so that the aging parent is being gently guided and cared for by their adult child(ren).
As I had children I began to sincerely appreciate all my parents did for me as I was growing up. I began to recognize their many sacrifices and the wise way in which they taught each of their children to follow their dreams and to set goals and work towards them, to be good citizens, to be people of faith, and to love one another.
But what about those times when life is forcing us into a change we hadn’t anticipated or wanted? Perhaps it’s a layoff, or a serious health concern for yourself or someone you love. Maybe because of a job you need to move to someplace where you don’t know anyone and are too far from family and friends for visiting. Or maybe you or someone you love has been in a car accident, or hurt while serving their country in the military. These all can be life-altering transitions that change the way we live. What do we do then?
As Lutherans, as do many other Christians as well, we turn to God in prayer and supplication, as should every day. Maybe our prayers are urgently squeaked out as we grapple with the newness of what we have just had thrust upon us. Maybe our prayers are just groanings within our spirit that we have no words for. Hopefully our Pastors come to give us the comfort of God’s Word and maybe the sacrament if we cannot do that communally within our church. The new “normal” may be hard to accept, and harder still not to be angry with for it has robbed us of what we thought we deserved or wanted or what our life should be. That’s where consistent prayers can help us to yield to God’s comfort as we learn to let go of the anger and accept His will.
It is natural for us to long for the past, where things were familiar. But God doesn’t leave us there (1 Peter 1:2-4; I John 2:12-14; Galatians 1:24). He moves us forward and teaches us all the time so that hopefully we are moving from milk to meat (Hebrews 4:12-14) and repeating that process at each part of our journey this side of heaven. He comforts and provides for us through all the times of our lives.
How precious it is for us as women to experience these transitions in our lives, sharing with one another, caring for one another, and praying for one another. The best advice I ever received as a new parent was to enjoy each stage of my child’s development. I took that advice to heart, and have indeed treasured each stage of my children’s lives, even when it wasn’t fun and I felt overwhelmed. I’ve also enjoyed my time as a daughter to my aging parents. I had the privilege of being with them in the last stages of their lives, and indeed, to a great extent, our roles did change and I was blessed to be able to give back to them some of what they had given me all of my life.
We cannot avoid the transitions in our lives. Let us embrace them, and help each other through them.