by Ed Bacon
In his book, Transitions, William Bridges, a noted authority in transition studies writes, “Change is external; transition is internal.”
As I reflect on how my own Lenten journey has been going this year, the first thing that leaps to mind is that I have taken on Transition for Lent.
By that I mean that the external change of my retirement in May, 2016 is now established. The deeper reality is that every day has something about it related to the internal work of transition. Transition is present in most meetings in some way and in almost every conversation my wife and I have.
Bridges describes three overlapping stages of transition: the ending, the neutral zone, and the new beginning. The ending is a time when you decide to leave something significant, e.g. a situation, position, or home. The neutral zone is that time between the ending and a new beginning.
Every transition and every experience of being in the neutral zone brings up past experiences of change and transition. Depending on how fraught or successful past transitions were, those past transitions are in some form present either to be reworked or to be a resource in the current transition. Oftentimes its both.
For me, every significant past transition has been about vocation – discovering a new version of the anchor in my life – finding where my deep joys and the world’s deep needs meet. That is a constant for me – making sure I am doing what uniquely has my name on it.
A friend in the parish sent me an interesting article about a sister in a Catholic religious order who was retiring. She wrote, “Especially during the neutral zone, that in-between time, we need anchors. While everything seems to be changing around us we gravitate to the solid foundations of our lives, the immutable axis around which the winds of change swirl. Prayer, the basic understanding of religious life as a quest for God, communications with friends, etc.” (Helen Maher Garvey BVM, “How Did I Get Here?” SALT magazine, Winter, 2015, pp. 16-17)
That’s what Lent is for me – deep study in one or more books, more time for prayer, a quiet day, slower conversations with friends, more worship, more listening, more time to know that life is all about the healing and transforming power of love.