Monday, January 23, 2017

The Trouble With Transitions

Transition is easy.  It's what comes after the transition that is hard!

It's never the change that kills you - it's the rebound!

It's not the ascent to the top that gets you - it's the descent to the bottom!

It's not the journey that poses the challenge - it's the return home!

These basic axioms of life were seemingly proven this past weekend when I drove the rainy streets and freeways of Southern California, in the midst of a torrential downpour.  With two hands glued to the steering wheel, and two eyes fixed on the road, I wondered to myself where the highest numbers of car accidents take place for the average person.  The answer, according to Google (I waited until I got home to Google - in case you are wondering:-), may surprise you.  They occur right around people's driveways, and within five minutes of their house.  The theory goes that as people take long car rides to different places, they tend to focus very closely on the freeways and roads that they are not familiar with.  On the other hand, when people get closer to home, they let down their guard, they pay less attention, they get into crashes. 

Similarly, the hard part about launching a spacecraft into outer space, I am told, is not getting past the earth's atmosphere and into orbit, it's the re-entry back to the earth.  The huge heat forces that a spacecraft has to guard against, and the penumbra of things that can go wrong, are the dangerous part of space travel.  Most spacecraft and astronautical problems occur on re-entry.

And, not to belabor the point, but more people die on the descent from Everest every year, than the ascent.  Again, the reasons for this phenomenon are easy to understand.  A climber, focussed on the top of the mountain with energy, vitality, excitement and initiative, does whatever it takes to make it to the top.  However, it's when the body's resources are spent, and the mental energies are depleted that mistakes occur and accidents happen.

The basic truthfulness of this premise is probably enough of a blogpost to sustain most of us this week.  It literally applies to every aspect of our lives (our health, our relationships, our work habits, our parenting experiences, our finances).  However, here are a couple of application points that I have been pondering.

Our country experienced a great transition this past weekend.  We changed one leader of the free world out for another - we changed Presidents.  For Trump supporters, it was a "tour de force" and a herculean accomplishment, to help an individual who came not from not just the back bench of American politics, but from way outside in the parking lot.  We have never had a President like Trump before.  Never before has such a feat, in the estimation of some, been accomplished.  And yet, to apply the previously articulated principle to my point, getting elected isn't really the hard part - it's what comes next.  It's the governing.  If you will, getting elected was the mountaintop experience, the descent (and I mean this just metaphorically) is the day to day act of moving forward.

One imagines as well, the transition and post-transition for former President Barak Obama.  Like many of his predecessors, it may be that the office isn't what does him in, it is what comes after that causes the fatal blow.  For former President Lyndon Johnson, it was the cigarette that he lit up on the Marine One helicopter (that soon led to many packs more), that led to his early death.  For Obama too, it may be that leading the country for eight years was the easy part.  The hard part may be transitioning into something different and new, as a "youngish" man who has just left the most powerful post in the world.

Church leaders also experience the transition/post-transition challenge on a regular basis.  The hard part is not the building of the new sanctuary, the hard part is the transitioning people from the old sanctuary (the vessel of so many hopes and dreams over the years).  The new incredible building is built, but people like the old one better.  The challenge is not starting a new contemporary worship service, the challenge is the problem which arises afterward that you never expected (the neighbors begin to complain about the sound levels, the church attracts a different group of people than ever before, the sound system isn't sufficient).

Some people have called this the rubber band effect.  If you shoot a rubber-band at someone (I've been practicing, I have elementary school aged kids), and the rubber band hits the other person, it isn't the front side of the rubber band that causes the sting, and the welt, it's the back part which quickly follows there after, and makes the snapping sound.

The answer to this scientific phenomenon for our personal lives, is of course, to always be ready for the thing that comes after.  To expect a backlash, a rebound, a rubber band snap.  We should remember not to expend all of our energy on the forward motion, but to save up enough energy, reserve, strength, fortitude, patience, and resilience to deal with what comes after.

All For Now,


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