Transitions are never smooth, and we make them all the time. William Bridges, the author of the book, Transitions, reminds us that transition is that psychological process we undergo as we experience a change in our life journey. He suggested there were three stages we go through with change:
- Endings – letting go of things from the past
- Neutral Zone – a creative time of anxiety and uncertainty
- New Beginning – putting habits and practices in place that create a new normal
We recognize it in church when we go through a leadership change or a significant event. We see transition when we go off to college or get married or have a new baby or move from one place to another. We watch the pain when a loved one dies.
In our coaching class on change, transition, and transformation, we use the metaphor of a bridge as one illustration of what is taking place in our lives. Bridges get us from one side to the other of a river or sizeable highway or lake or canyon. The challenge for us all is that bridges come in various sizes and lengths. Many bridges don’t take very long to get from one side to the other. There are others, though, where you cannot see the ending when you get on it. Tall and long bridges are that way. I remember getting on the 23-mile Lake Ponchatrain Causeway in Louisiana. When you get on, it seems like the other side will never come. All you see is water for miles and miles.
This new time we face with COVID-19 is bringing great transition in our lives. Almost everyone is reminding us that we are not across the bridge completely. Yet, a re-gathering and a new beginning are coming quickly. We have experimented with some new things as we have been trying to get from one side to the other – digital worship, new connections, social media presence, living daily with faith and hope, being church as dispersed and scattered. When we re-gather, things will be different. Yet I wonder if we have taken stock yet of really what is ahead.
Here are some questions I have needed to wrestle with as a coach. I have used them as a self-coaching exercise and as questions in my resilience coaching with pastors and leaders.
- What have you had to “let go” of during this coronavirus and how have you grieved those things?
- For what are you looking back and longing from the old way of life?
- What is a biblical story, biblical character, or Scripture that has been your foundation during this journey?
- The airline attendant always says, “Put your mask on before you help your child with their mask. Make sure your oxygen is following freely.” What are the practices you do to make sure “your oxygen is flowing freely?”
- Whose mask do you put on first?
- What is your feedback loop to help you recalibrate and to find creative solutions for this next stage?
- What leadership posture are you assuming while you are on the “bridge?” What will need to be your leadership posture when you get to the other side?
- How are you practicing gratitude during this highly anxious “transition” stage?
- What are you most afraid of during this time? Of what are you most fearful as we move forward?
- What is the vision and purpose for which God has called you? How do you keep this vision before you even as you live in crisis and creative mode?
- What is something new you are attempting during this crisis to relieve anxiety and boredom? How will this “new thing” serve you when you get over the bridge to the “new beginning?
- Who are your most trustworthy friends who will help you get to the “other side?”
- How are you maintaining the boundary of saying no during this transition?
- If you are not saying no, who are the people who are suffering the most from you not saying no?
- What is something new God is teaching you during this crisis?
- What are your pictures of “the other side” and “re-gathering?” How are you communicating those to the people around you?
I know more questions confront me in this transition. These are the starter questions with which I am wrestling as we get to the other side. The truth is that we cannot go back and thrive. Now, I just have to make sure I am ready for what is next. But isn’t that the biblical example of life? We keep moving forward. I am investing in my coach as I attempt to move forward. I think I am afraid of no longer being relevant and having correct vision more than anything else as these days come. I can hardly wait to see what God is going to do next. No telling what surprises are next.
Ken Kessler, D. Min, PCC, Coaching Network Director at Baptist General Association of Virginia.
About the Author: You may contact Ken at firstname.lastname@example.org. He will be glad to assist you in any way he can on this unbelievable journey.