Transitional Constants

Posted on: September 12, 2012 Written by
Transitional Constants
      Photography by: Comstock Images from iStock    

Twelve years ago, I wrote an article for Women of the Harvest about transition. At the time,I was one year into our first overseas assignment. I look back now and I smile, thinking, “What did I know about transition then?” But I am encouraged by what God taught me in such a short time.

Since then, we have added to our family, made several moves between and within countries, and changed job focuses a number of times. Now, we’re about to make the transition back to the United States. With each turn, God has taught me more.

So once again I find myself looking back at the lessons God led me through during these times. I hope they will carry me through what feels like our toughest transition yet. And chances are good there are more lessons to learn. When has God ever passed up an opportunity to teach me something?

What have I learned? I have learned that there is only one role that defines me, and that is “child of God.” Anything else can be taken from me. Wife, mother, expat, sister, friend, minister of the Gospel—any of these could be gone tomorrow. It is a great gift to be given any of these roles. I want to do them wholeheartedly and faithfully, but I cannot allow my value to come from them.

Aside from that unchangeable role, the only other constant in my life is God Himself. In each transition I have seen more of His character, and am learning to depend on it. He is tender when I am devastated by changes. He rejoices in giving us new blessings. He is faithful to provide. He is my Guide in new circumstances. My friends, my co-workers, the people I interact with daily, they may all come and go, but my God is present, faithful, and unchanging.

I am learning when I keep these constants as my anchor, I can keep my heart open. I remember a fellow co-worker who moved in next door to me with her two kids. Though she only lived in our community for a year, she lived it to the fullest. She embraced the opportunities, exposing her family to more culture in that one year than I think I’d really pursued in the previous four years. She reminded me of the Jim Elliot quote: Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God. It’s tempting to pull back into our shells, to hole up and do what we know feels comfortable, but there’s not much life there. I’ve learned that, as much as I can, I want to be wholeheartedly engaged in whatever situation God puts me in.

This goes not only for experiences, but even more so for relationships. We never experienced the revolving door of expatriate life like we did in Singapore. It became so constant that at one point when I introduced my son to a new child and he said to me, “Well, how long is he going to be here?”

At just five years-old, my son had begun to make choices about where he was going to invest his heart. I’ve felt the same way! Recently, a new family moved into town. Knowing we were leaving soon, I was tempted not to pursue her. In the end, I felt it was worth it and it was; she is one of my closest friends. Choosing to pursue her is something I’ve never regretted though I know it means one more difficult goodbye in the end.

It’s painful, this open-heart thing. C.S. Lewis said, “Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken.” But what is the other option? To hide our hearts away means we will miss out on joy as well as pain. I can’t measure how painful some of these transitions have been, how many tears I’ve cried. But it has also brought richness to my life and relationships I wouldn’t have known possible. And in the midst of it, clinging to who I am in Him and who He is, has become my shelter and my strength, allowing me greater freedom to love and live with abandon.

So as I look at this next move, I want to remember these things. I hope to see more of Him in it. I hope to look back and see that I have loved well in this chapter of my journey. I hope I will have embraced what He has given me – the trials and the blessings. And I hope I will have moved with an open heart through this next transition, my toughest one yet.

 

© 2012 Women of the Harvest.

Question to Consider: What have you learned through your transitions?



About the author

Gina and her husband spent 13 years serving the Lord overseas in various parts of Asia. While they were there, they raised and homeschooled their two children, and were forever changed. Nearly three years ago, God called them back to the U.S. where they now serve in Global Leadership at Cru headquarters in Orlando, Florida.

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  • Oh, thank you for this! I’m learning to cling to the fact that even in some of the hardest times away from “home” or familiarity, God is always the same. The reason i celebrate Christmas, or Easter, is the same no matter what continent i might reside on or who i have around me… or whether the people i care most about will never be in the same place with me all at one time. In the toughest times of transition, i can know, painfully, that there is a reason for the pain… that this in fact is not our real home. Thanks for sharing your wisdom and helping me remember to continue to live life fully here and now… and to know i’m not alone. 🙂

  • Avery

    Thank you for these wise words. They encourage my feeble – transitioning – heart to continue an upward gaze through the cross to our greatly anticipated, unchanging, forever home with our unchanging, forever God. I am so grateful to be his child.

  • Nancy

    I especially like the “constants” in the title. What I’ve learned or at least continue to learn is that God is always in my future. I often think to myself, “What will life be like a year from now?” especially because life changes so quickly overseas. I’m learning to speak truth to myself that no matter what life is like in a year – God has already prepared it and is already there for me. It’s recognizing that he is the master of my personal journey and at the same time creator of the universe. It’s a reassuring and comforting constant!

  • Christina

    Thanks! Such wonderfully written words and so timely for me. In a few weeks I am also going back to the US (indefinitely) and feel this transition is as hard as my first trip to live in SE Asia six years ago. I want to save this and read again! Many blessings 🙂

  • Years ago a friend shared something with me that her father had told her — “Wouldn’t it be sad if it didn’t hurt at all?” This has helped me so much in the pain of many goodbyes. (And they just don’t get easier, do they?!)

    What you said about the role of “child of God” being the only constant one — yes, that hit me a few years back, too. But I keep having to remind myself. Thanks for doing that again.

  • Lorraine

    Thank you for this article! I have been on the field a little over a year. In this year, I have faced so many changes apart from the obvious change in countries, I have seen three friends leave the field and many challenges in team work and team life as well as learning a new language and culture. The one thing I have to keep reminding myself amidst all the changes is that my identity is in Christ alone, and He is the only One who is constantly there in my life.

  • Joy in Nepal

    Thank you for that. Especially those first five paragraphs. I’ve been slooooowly realizing this in my heart, and appreciate your words.

  • Jennifer

    As we transition to life in the US after thinking we would return to the field, my heart is torn. I feel lost and uncertain. It’s interesting how “over-there” becomes more familiar than “home.”
    Thank you for those words, well-expressed!

  • Kathleen Wintter

    This is very timely for me also. I just e-mailed my ministry partners that I would be willing to do a talk at our evangelistic picnic next week (Sept. 22) and that the theme that I believe God put on my heart is CHANGE. Your article caught my interest and I got some ideas for my talk from it, especially the idea of the unchanging role of child of God….I hope you don’t mind if I use it!!

    Thanks!! God bless!!

    Kathleen

  • Melissa

    As one who is going through a very difficult transition, I resonate with this article and many of the comments. I continue to thank God for His faithfulness, His love and grace, His gentleness and patience with me. Thank you for the reminder of the one role that defines me. As His child, I praise Him that He is present, faithful, unchanging, and gently drawing me to Himself. I need to keep opening my hand, letting go of the past to grasp on to what He has for me now. Thank you for sharing what you’re learning.

  • I’m so glad this could be encouraging to others! I’m encouraged to read these comments and know that I am in good company in my continued transition. I started a new blog upon returning to the US last week if you’re interested in reading more.

  • I couldn’t agree more heartily with Gina’s article and many of the other comments. We’ve been through several ministry transitions, and each one has been painful. Staying put in a ministry can be painful, too! During our most difficult ministry transition, I struggled to find my identity outside the ministry I thought was my place to serve. Praise God, being His child, is indeed the constant joy and motivation to serve Him. I have learned to put my heart and soul into the place and people where God plants me to serve…the time may be short, or the time may be long, but God wants us to flourish 100%.

  • Tammy

    Gina – Very well written friend! Love it! and as you well know. . . very, very timely!

  • carol

    Thanks for this. It was good to hear that there may be others scared of returning “home” after many years on the field.
    To me, though, the most painful part of all of this was your son’s comment about “how long will he be here”.
    I work in an MK school and it is just so heartbreaking for me to see the way these children behave at the end of each school year. Some of them just kind of accept it as part of their life that people are moving in and out, while others are truly hurt that their best friend is leaving even if it is for just a year. Returning a year later also makes it hard on relationships as I have also seen evidence of since there are the little “memories” that have been missed out on.
    I remember another little gal who returned from furlough and was so excited to be back because she had had such a hard time trying to fit in with her school in a rural community in the US where everyone had known everyone else since Kindergarten and here she was a new 8th grader. She had to learn to “love her enemies” in a whole new way as her mother put it.
    Yes, transition is hard on adults but please remember to pray and work with your children especially hard during this time also.

  • Rhonda

    Thanks for the article and the many comments. It seems that the only thing constant is change – moving, people changing their ministry roles, saying goodbyes…I find it interesting that some things I come to expect, but I am often taken off guard during the course of transitions. Our current ‘transition’ has been rather drawn out so I’m not sure how to process it. I remembered today about being here to be a part of God’s family and to be His child. Thank you for the good reminders about what is really most important.