God built this earth on tectonic plates and the universe on the dying and rising of a great family of stars. He founded the universe on change. Strange for a Being we think of as The Great Unchanging One. This means that, no matter how firmly we grasp onto human tradition or institution, we better learn to be flexible. This is true especially for those trying to lead through the deeper stretches of change—and God knows that the world, now more than ever, needs people of faith to share His wisdom in the long, dark seasons of greater transition.
We may be in one of those moments in the West now, with social norms and power vacuums both destabilizing. Many people find themselves deconstructing their faith at various levels. These deepest parts of change test us the most. When we get to deep transition—that part of change when we realize that old rules no longer apply and the codes of obligation need rewriting—we tend to lose all civility and rely, for hope, on pure character. That’s why the world needs more mature Christians so much right now, for their sterling character, forged by God through decades of Christian formation.
In deep transition, all rules we used for coping, and all of the mechanisms that helped us make sense of our lives, no longer work. Our world ends up shifting, and we no longer grasp onto anything easily that helps us to make quick sense of our surroundings. It’s like a devoted climber who finds herself half way up her route then realizes that somebody’s moved the jug patterns, once memorized, now scrambled. We all at once grieve what was once memorized—now foreign—and scramble to keep climbing. We have to rethink what was once habitual; we panic a little bit.
In my first six years in full-time ministry, I changed the ministry’s name—four times. I had a lot to learn about human nature, about how easily disturbed we can become, even if resilience defines the human race so well. Since then, I’ve learned a few things about acting maturely in the midst of change. I have watched many people I respect come unhinged in times of transition. I have lost my patience in heated moments. And I have learned to cope just a little more when rules no longer apply and we reach seasons of deep transition. I’ve learned that the Christian life has so much to offer during these challenging times.
We’ll start with a few foundational scriptures. Then I’ll share some thoughts about how different people need to be talked down differently from despair during moments of deep transition. And then I show how it all comes back to a patently Christian virtue: love.