Don’t Miss God in the Transition
By Jana Phelps
A Student's Prayer
Help me remember that you’re always by my side,
At school and all day long.
Help me be the best student I can be,
Using all the gifts and talents you’ve given me.
Help me study well and often
-especially when I don’t feel like studying at all!
Help me finish all my homework-on time.
Help me listen to my teachers and coaches.
Help me play fair and play safely.
Help me to be honest when I’m tempted to cheat.
Help me always tell the truth.
Help me be kind to everyone at school
And to treat others as I’d want them to treat me.
Help me make good friends
And help me to be a good friend to others.
Help me see how I can help others
And to ask for help when I need it myself.
Help me love and respect, trust and appreciate my parents
-and be honest with them.
Help me remember that you’re with me always, Lord,
And that you’ll never leave my side.
A new school year starts, and before you know it, our kids are back into yet another year, parents are transitioning into watching a child go off to college, or into the military, taking a new job or transferring to a new location, or all the above. September is often a time when the reality of a transition sets in, whether we are young or old.
Children adapting to a new classroom, new teacher, possibly a whole new school, loss of old friends and gaining of new ones. Transitions are never easy and, when we watch how they affect our children, we feel the difficulty for them as well as ourselves. Most of our difficulties with transitions and where we miss God in the transitions comes from the unknowns; we can’t imagine ourselves in our new house, new city, a new school, or with new friends.
These unknowns can often breed fear, anxiety, anger, sadness, and resentment. Psalm 34:4-5: “I sought the Lord, and He answered me: he delivered me from all my fears.” I told my children, “In this transition, you’ll have times where you don’t know what to do and when you feel uncertain, and I will too. That’s OK.”
With change, I know there will be a time of transition, but I often don’t give myself grace when negative or uncertain emotions emerge. I’ve been hyper-aware of this because I so often respond similarly to my children; I expect them to move through a transition with a positive attitude and immediate acceptance of all the changes it brings for them. I’ve discovered that I’m uncomfortable with negative emotions during a transition because they feed my fear that I’ve made a bad choice, because I want to protect my children from difficult moments, and because I’m typically dealing with my own uncertainties. I’ve made a conscious effort to think of this transition as a long transition rather than a short one, which is my way of giving grace to myself and to my kids and of being open to the difficult days that have already come and will surely come again.
Taking the long view of a transition not only helps me give grace, but it helps us teach our kids how to give grace to themselves. The following suggestions are some ways they could respond, whether to themselves, to other kids, or to me. It’s been compiled as practical tips which could translate into preparing for and experiencing transition with grace.
Help Kids Name Emotions. Every kid is different and their responses will be different to the challenges of transition. One of my sons is having more difficulty with his schooling transition than the other. The way he has indicated his nervousness, however, has been difficult to recognize as nervousness. Instead of typical nervousness, I’ve seen a bad attitude and disrespectful behavior. A wise mom in our church who I sought for help said, “He is nervous about the change and this is how he’s showing it.” I knew immediately she was right. I had been focusing on his behavior, but he really needed me to help him name and respond to his emotions. He needed a compassionate mom who asked for and listened to his true thoughts and feelings without frustration or fear.
Celebrate Victories. With so many challenges and unknowns to overcome in a transition, it’s important to find reasons to celebrate victories, accomplishments, and perseverance with our children. Celebrate a milestone in a new city, a new friend made, a school achievement, or a willingness to try something new with a surprise dessert or pointed words of encouragement.
Pray for Your Kids In Front of Your Kids. There have been times through our transition when I’ve put on a brave face for my kids but have been inwardly wrestling with fear and doubt. As I prayed about my own concerns, I recognized that I needed to be more open with my kids about how I was handling the changes. They needed to hear me praying for them and asking God to help us through our transition, primarily because it would encourage them to trust God for help when they are uncertain. I began asking them individually what they were concerned about and praying for them out loud. This not only brought peace to our home but it strengthened my faith as well.
Transitions are difficult; there is just no way around it. I trust, however, that as I’m diligent to know and respond to my children and their individual needs, God will use me to teach and grow my children through the bittersweet blessing of change. And, without a doubt, He will teach and grow me too!
There can be many reasons as to why we miss God in transitions: lack of trust, lack of faith, fear of the unknown, the list is endless. But is it really worth it to miss God in His transitions of our lives because of our own insecurities towards Him, not so much the situation? I believe it is worth the risk to go for it with God and not be afraid of the transitions because God's transitions always leads to transformation.
Do you think of and seek out God in these transitions? Do you put God out in front and trust that He is there with you comforting and guiding you through? For remember the Bible says in Jeremiah 29:11: For I know the plans I have for you, “ declares the Lord, ”plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plan to give you hope and a future.” May we no longer continue to miss God in His transitions, but lean on Him and embrace the transformation!
--Adapted in part from Christine Hoover author of The Church Planting Wife: Help and Hope for Her Heart and the forthcoming book, From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel.
Jana is the Congregational Care Coordinator at First Presbyterian Church of Sioux Falls. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.