Growing up, I used to approach the new school year with differing levels of apprehension and terror.
What if the teacher didn’t like me?
What if I forgot everything I’d learned the previous year? (I actually remember trying to practice some Math worksheets a few days before starting fifth grade.)
Before my wedding, I remember worrying that I wouldn’t figure out how to shop, plan, and cook meals each night.
Before Isaiah was born, I feared I wouldn’t know how to care for a baby, since I’d only had experience babysitting older kids, (which had been years earlier).
As I anticipate the birth of our daughter in a few weeks, it’s easy to try to picture what life will be like and to wonder how I’ll possibly have the strength and energy to care for a toddler and an infant.
When my free thoughts aren’t being attacked by those worries, my brain and/or hormones have wanted to convince me that this is the last chance to ever experience uninterrupted sleep, extended devotional times, and mental energy to write.
That I’d better enjoy it while I can, and pack as much into these last weeks of “freedom” as I’m able.
But the reality of transition is that it often doesn’t look like we imagined it would, no matter how much thinking or planning we do.
There are sacrifices that can be expected, but even those changes can be discouraging when we forget Who will be in the future with us, just as He is in the present.
Here are a few ideas that have been helpful, when I’ve needed something to replace stressful thoughts of anticipation:
- Reflect on the past.
It’s easy to be so focused on my current circumstances or the unknowns of the future that I don’t take time to remember God’s faithfulness in past experiences. This isn’t the first transition I’ve gone through, and it won’t be the last, until I reach my final home with Jesus on the New Earth.
As we read God’s Word, tracing His redemption plan over the course of history, we can see a God who is unchanging in His goodness and sovereign care for His children.
We can also follow the pattern of our own history within that plan, how God drew us to Himself and has led us ever since.
Sometimes we can even see how He’s made us more like Himself through past difficulties. I’ve been able to look back on years of physical pain enhanced by unhealthy thought patterns (that led into depression), and see God’s gracious hand leading me into His freedom.
I love the quote by Martin Luther King Jr.
“I may not be the man I want to be; I may not be the man I ought to be; I may not be the man I could be; I may not be the man I truly can be; but praise God, I’m not the man I once was.”
2. Embrace the unknowns.
Living by faith brings us to a place of rest in the Father. The people of Israel were offered a way of life and fellowship with God, but didn’t combine their head knowledge with faith. (Hebrews 4:3)
Do I really believe that Jesus is the only One who can satisfy my deepest needs?
Faith also involves living in submission to the way God wants us to reflect Him. It opens our eyes to see the good works (and roles) He’s prepared for us, and allows us to trust in His strength and presence to guide us through each change. (Ephesians 2:10).
Faith gives us the ability to ask Jesus what He wants for us next while still being engaged in the life we have now.
And because He’s the One leading us, we are free to keep enjoying Him no matter how many minutes (or seconds) we get to spend in focused prayer and Bible reading before a little voice starts calling for milk.
3. Remember the stages.
My mentor Natalie recently reminded me, “One of the biggest discouragements in life is feeling like something will never end.”
After those first newborn weeks of interrupted rest, it felt like Isaiah would never sleep through the night, and that he’d only ever be able to communicate with me through crying.
Sometimes, I’ve needed someone to let me acknowledge the discomfort of the situation while pointing me ahead to the next stage. Remembering that I won’t have a newborn and a toddler forever gives me hope for a future time when I’ll be able to just grab my keys and leave the house.
And as I’ve thought about the limitations another baby will bring, I was embarrassed to realize I was spending more weeks worrying about caring for a newborn than the newborn stage would actually last.
Sometimes it feels like a change has been anticipated for so long that it will never come.
Like I will never be able to see my feet again or flip over in bed without executing a three-point turn.
But once again, these feelings can be a reminder of the patient character of God. As Melissa Kruger said in her Biblestudy on motherhood, “We can only bear the fruit of patience when we have something to be patient about.” (p.164)
When we look at the creation, fall, redemption, and restoration aspects of God’s rescue plan, spanning Genesis to Revelation, we can see that God is not in a hurry.
In 2 Peter 3:9, Peter says that “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
When we anticipate a transition, we have the chance to be a part of reflecting that grace-filled redemptive patience as we wait with hope.
Will you surrender your worries to the One who would like nothing more than to take them from you?
Will you trust God “to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” in your current stage of life? (Philippians 2:13)
Is there a transition you’re anticipating? I’d love to hear and pray for you.