We all know the feelings when we’ve binge watched our favorite show and reach the end; we don’t want it to be over and we want to know what’s next! Transitions in life are similar.
Before something new can begin, something else must end. Sometimes we choose those endings, other times they choose us. How we handle endings has an impact on how we navigate the transitions of life.
Author and Pastor Charles Swindoll once said “We cannot change the inevitable…I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it.”
This Sunday we begin looking at transitions by starting at the end.
Full Sermon Script:
Think for a moment what the last three years have held for you, what they’ve looked like for you
Here are the highlights of the last three years of my life…
Four different homes
Lived in Pleasanton, San Diego and Livermore
Single to dating to married (the most amazing woman!)
Gained two more incredible kids for a total of five
Became a doggie daddy x2
Became an empty nester
It goes without saying that life is a constant state of change
Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, said that “Change is the only constant in life”
Change is a given … as we age over the years, we change how we dress, what we eat, where we live, who we’re friends with…
It’s fair to say much of who we are and have today are the product of change in our lives
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 talks of the changing seasons of life …
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
…and change often leads to transitions.
Often, we view them as the same, synonymous, but they’re not
You can have change without a transition, but not transition without change
Change is a situational shift
Transition is a turning point in life, it’s something much deeper
Transition defined is, “an event that results in a transformation.”
Transition is letting go of the old and taking hold of the new; releasing what used to be and embracing what subsequently becomes.
Ex: new baby … let go of regular sleep, disposal income (in exchange for disposal diapers), free time, spontaneous trips of any kind
Here’s how that works …
When we read a book, or go on a trip we typically think of…
The beginning … always the best part … the excitement of the adventure at it’s start
The middle … enjoying the story as it develops … or the experience of the location
The ending … can’t believe it’s over
Transitions are a paradox (seems self-contradictory but in reality expresses a truth); they operate in reverse
Start with an ending
we lose or let go of a reality, attitudes, values, self-image
Move into a middle ground, an In-between space
between the what was and not yet in what will be, not really being in either
End with a beginning
a new reality, attitude, self-image, place in life
The starting point for transition is an ending that we must make.
TS Eliot, one of the twentieth century’s major poets, said “To make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.”
Transitions begin with an ending, end with a beginning and have a space in-between.
Here’s why this is important …
When we mistake transition simply for change, we miss the inner, deeper transformation that’s needing to take place and we are left reliving and/or repeating the past
There are times when the same situation happens time and again throughout life, and for some “unknown” reason our response and outcome seems to always be the same. The response might be the same, and outcome might be different each time, or the response is different each time, and the outcome is the same.
It’s an indication that there is or are unresolved issues, or transitions, which have never been dealt with, and the “baggage” comes along with each additional situation leads to faulty and flawed thinking and decision making.
When we resist, ignore or miss transitions in life, we stay stuck, never becoming who we’re meant to be, what we can be.
Unless we embrace life’s transitions, the future that we can expect is more of the past.
There are three basic categories of transitions: Developmental, External and Internal.
Another important dynamic about transitions is that they can be experienced simultaneously.
Depending on who you talk to, there are anywhere from 12 to 20 stages throughout a lifetime that are simply a result of being born. The transition from one of these stages to the next is a developmental transition. Half of those transitions we experience in the first 20 years of life!
Infancy, Toddler, Adolescence, Puberty, Adulthood, Active Living … just to name a few.
External Transitions … caused by others
Sometimes the cause is because something was done to you. Sometimes the cause is accidental. Sometimes you just happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Ex: death of a loved one, severe health issues or the loss of a job due to an organizational restructuring.
Externally caused transitions may be the most grief filled transitions we deal with although grieving is a part of all transitions.
Internal Transitions … caused by me, decision based
A third kind of transitions are caused by decisions we make.
Ex: the decision about whether to go to college and if so where to go to college and what to major in; marriage, having children, deciding where to live or which jobs to take.
We are also always dealing with transitions that are occurring with others around us, members in our family, friends, co-workers.
Imagine that each life is represented by a pebble thrown into a pond that generates waves where the pebble hit the pond. It doesn’t take too long before all those waves intersect to transform a tranquil pond into a chaotic scene. Transitions!
So for the next three weeks we want to look at transitions, how they work in our lives, how we respond to them, process them, transform through them …
And the first phase of transition are endings
We see transitions throughout the Bible…
Adam and Eve leaving the garden of Eden
Abraham told to leave his home and “go”
Moses running from Egypt to escape the penalty of murder
Israelites wandering in the wilderness for 40 years
Mary, from an engaged teenager to a scandalous, miraculous pregnancy
Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness
Paul’s encounter with Jesus on the Damascus Road
One of the most powerful and relatable stories of transition is found in the book of Ruth…
It’s interesting to note that few stories in the Bible are told from a woman’s perspective, but this story views God through the eyes and experience of two women, Naomi and Ruth.
***If you’re here today or watching this online and you wouldn’t call yourself a Christ-follower and you struggle with some Bible concepts, Ruth won’t set off any triggers, there’s no miracles, no stories of fire falling from heaven, no wars … but you may very well relate to what is happening in the story***
1:1-2 “In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. The name of the man was Elimelech (el·ē·meh’·lek) and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon (makh·lōn’) and Chilion (kil·yōn’). They were Ephrathites (ef·räth·ē’) from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there.”
Ending #1 … famine drove them from their home to a foreign place (internal/external)
This was not a move from the Tri-Valley to the Central Valley
sojourn – to be a resident alien
Only 30 miles away, but a world apart … two people groups who did not mingle together
Moab was located east of Jerusalem, across the Dead Sea, in what is now Jordan
Some of you know the feeling, the experience of moving from your home, your family, your culture into a “foreign” land
the move to the United States, into the Tri-Valley, may have literally been halfway around the world, or at the very least seems like a different world entirely
maybe you’ve been discriminated against because you’re “different”, you don’t fit into the “normal” around you, your look is different, your culture is different, your values are different, your language is different
You find yourself trying to navigate through a culture you don’t fully understand and isn’t taking the time to try and understand you
Maybe you didn’t make the decision to move here, you had no choice and going back home is not an option
You look at Ruth and think “I feel you sister”
1:3 “But Elimelech (el·ē·meh’·lek), the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons.”
Ending #2 … death of her husband (external)
Not the better life they had moved in search of
1:4-5 “These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah (or·pä’) and the name of the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years, and both Mahlon (makh·lōn’) and Chilion (kil·yōn’) died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.”
Ending #3 #4 … death of both sons (external)
Ending #5 … family name, there were no children
It’s going from bad to worse
Naomi has gone from being a wife and mother to being a widow in a foreign land who is responsible for two foreign daughters-in-law (also now both widowed and childless themselves)
She was destitute… Love-less, man-less, wealth-less, hope-less, left with nothing in a land that could have cared-less for her
widows in a patriarchal society did not have much hope
And what don’t we read in the story? Orpah (or·pä’) and Ruth’s families are silent, apparently offering no empathy, support
Pause here … These first five verses cover 10 years: move to escape famine, an outsider in a foreign land, three deaths, by all accounts the loss of everything
10 years of one ending after another … a decade of life
How would you be responding?
How have you responded?
When your whole future is hanging on plan A and plan A is over, it’s dead … what do you do?
maybe for you the death has been that of your plan for the future, what it was going to be like when the kids were all gone, or how you were going to climb the ladder of corporate success,
A transition does not depend on there being a replacement reality waiting in the wings.
An ending does not require an immediate beginning, an automatic restart or a guaranteed refresh
1:6-7 “Then she arose with her daughters-in-law to return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the fields of Moab that the Lord had visited his people and given them food. So she set out from the place where she was with her two daughters-in-law, and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah.”
Ending #6 … location, back to Judah after 10 years with nothing, no sense of security for her future (internal/external)
There’s nothing here for me, and things have changed back home … but so has she
We begin to see that one persons transition can ripple out to another persons life causing a transition. Naomi and Ruth were having simultaneous transitions of similar yet different natures and each is having to react to their own and each others at the same time.
1:8-9 “But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. The Lord grant that you may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband!” Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept.”
Ending #7 … relationship, letting go of her only immediate remaining family, her daughters in law (internal)
with no marriage prospects or way to support them, she knew their best chance to salvage their lives was to return to their fathers’ homes and hope to marry again someday.
In transition, we often look for ways to lighten the load, deal with the fallout, make it “easier” on ourselves or others
That’s how all of this started … moving to Moab
Would it have all happened if they had not moved?
How often do we ask ourselves questions like that?
Is there even an answer for that?
1:10-13 “And they said to her, “No, we will return with you to your people.” But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? Turn back, my daughters; go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, even if I should have a husband this night and should bear sons, would you therefore wait till they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? It is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me.”
BITTER … That’s how it looked. That’s how it felt… can you blame her?
Naomi has been compared to a female Job. She lost everything: home, husband, sons, her livelihood. She joined the ranks of Israel’s lowest members: the poor and the widowed.
Job 27:2 “As God lives, who has taken away my right, and the Almighty, who has made my soul bitter,”
Job’s chapter 1
satan asked God to test Job … I can get him to curse you God
Job in one day, lost all his wealth (his servants, livestock) and his children
Some of you have experienced losses, endings as tragic and painful as Naomi’s and you know the heartbreak and hopelessness she was feeling at this moment
Within endings, your dealing with …
Disengagement … separation from what you have lost
their home, relationships, community
Dis-identification … the loss of the identity you had
foreigners in a foreign land
Disenchantment … the way the loss tears you from your old reality
Wife and mother to widow and childless
In Ruth 1, we don’t see God, we don’t hear from God … He seems absent
I think Naomi was just trying to figure it out as she went … you don’t plan for this
The sequence of transitions can be, and often are, jarring, seasons of profound disorientation and chaos
In more confident, faith filled moments, we believe we’ll regain our footing, find balance and a new normal, but we can be lost as to how to navigate the terrain of endings with any kind of certainty
Naomi feels like God has been out to get her … have you felt that way before?
In January 2014, I was newly separated, in the midst of a divorce, and alone … or at least I felt that way
I don’t do alone well … which is funny because my personality finds rest and refreshment in being alone at times
A little over a year later I was told I was being let go from a job of 18 years at that point
Finances were tight, job interviews were not leading to jobs
I had moments, seasons of bitterness …
Here is where I, and we, face a choice …
for some, it’s one more reason not to believe in God
If he was real, why would he allow _______________ to happen???
Ours is a broken world, broken by sin, which leads in inexplicable events and experiences
But God is not absent, nor uncaring
An uncaring God would not send His only Son into the midst of the brokenness to sacrifice Himself in a demonstration of love to redeem that which is broken
An uncaring God would not give us the promise of Deuteronomy 31:6 “…it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”
And that’s not how it was for Naomi. The story was far bigger than she imagined. She couldn’t see it from their vantage point… yet
God cares more about our development than our moment
This is what we must remember in our endings. Sometimes it looks and feels like God is dealing “bitterly” with us when all the while He is doing us and many others more good than we could have imagined.
God’s purposes in the lives of his people are always gracious. Always. If they don’t look like it, don’t trust your perceptions. Trust God’s promises. He’s always fulfilling his promises.
Leaning into the sacredness of our circumstances is one of the hardest spiritual practices to embrace. But when we do, you find God’s presence and purpose far closer than you can imagine
Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
Don’t miss God in the midst of endings … you’re not alone
1:14-15 “Then they lifted up their voices and wept again. And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. And she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.”
1:16-18 “But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more.”
Ruth was a Moabite, meaning she was not brought up with a knowledge of God
Something in how Naomi and her family lived made an impression on Ruth and now in the midst of devastating endings, she reaching out to hold on to all that she has.
Naomi didn’t give in right away
1:19 “So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. And when they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them. And the women said, “Is this Naomi?”
Ending #8 … identity, her former status was no more (developmental/simultaneous)
She left with a husband and two sons, and returned 10 years later with a Moabite woman
Imagined how she must have changed … physically, emotionally, personality
And she returns with a foreign daughter in law
Who she was when she left she no longer is … she lost her identity
in a surprised state, even in dismay over Naomi’s condition and situation which they could not fully comprehend.
in essence, they caused an uproar, they were the gossip of the town
1:20-21 “She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?”
Naomi means “pleasant” … Mara means “bitter”
“God has treated me badly” “God did this to me” in essence … I got a raw deal and I’m bitter!
I had everything I wanted/needed, and God took it away from me
Some of us in this room have said that very thing
That’s the end of chapter 1 … And that’s endings … we don’t get the rest of the story right away
…but it’s not the end of the story
Endings can leave scars and we would do well to pay attention to them
Scars form when the dermis (deep, thick layer of skin) is damaged. The body forms new collagen fibers to mend the damage, resulting in a scar. The new scar tissue will have a different texture and quality than the surrounding tissue.
Scars are formed over time as part of the healing process
We view scars as blemishes, often trying to cover them up
Scars are a mark of an injury, but also of a healing
Some of you are in the process of scarring as something in your life is ending at this moment.
It’s not the end of your story
We need to grieve all the feels from the ending or we’ll carry hurts and patterns forward
Psalm 147:3 “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”
Others of us attempt to hide and cover up our scars out of embarrassment, pride, trying to live up to others expectations
My challenge to you is to acknowledge, maybe even embrace your scars, for the they are the marks of your transitions
Ecclesiastes 3:11a “He has made everything beautiful in its time…”
There is so much the past has for the future if we’re willing to slow down and experience all the ending has for us
And just because something had ended in your life, it doesn’t mean it’s forgotten or that it was wasted time.
Endings are more successful if we can respect the past for what it was and its role in our life
Next week, the second phase of transitions … where we often feel as if we’re wandering through the wilderness, a place of no longer what was and not yet what will be
Let’s pray …