By mid-August, nothing looks better to an eight-month pregnant woman than a window air-conditioner. Lugging a waddling body up a hill in 90% humidity, the cool apartment seems like heaven. While the first sign of pregnancy seemed like a celebration, by the eighth month, you just want to get that damn thing out. “I’m so ready for this to be over” you say to yourself, and anyone who will listen. The womb has been a great place to incubate this new little being, but the status quo cannot continue indefinitely. And the reality is that, for any pregnancy, there’s a sense of anxiety about what the actual birthing process will be like. You know there will be pain, but it remains hypothetical until real labor begins. The transition—hours and hours of labor pains, pacing, breathing, grabbing your husband’s hand and ripping his fingers apart, screaming, pushing. Suddenly, there’s a scrambling, a new wail, and this weird creature laid into your arms. The pain subsides, the sleepless nights begin, and a new normal is created. Then, three years later, in a moment of irrationality, the cycle repeats itself.
So many metaphors to build upon in William and Susan Bridges’ guide, Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change! The reality we all recognize is that change is inevitable and on-going. Once an organism or an organization ceases to change, it dies. Change, therefore, is a sign of life. As I read through the text, I grew frustrated with the repeated concept of transition and mentally replaced it with transformation. Transition seems to connote a readjustment, perhaps shifting your place in the scheme of things. Transformation, however, is an entirely new reality, a new creation. Like a caterpillar, happily munching on milkweed, an organization knows what it’s about, everyone what their role is. I don’t know the mental capacity of a caterpillar, but I do know what it’s like to accept the reality of impending change and loss. As our family has transitioned repeatedly from one location to another, we have worked deliberately to acknowledge the upcoming transition. For instance, preparing to leave California, we verbalized that we wanted to “finish well.” We literally said “good-bye” to places (Fullerton Theatre Auditorium), things (the Ombu tree at the Arboretum), and people (too many to list). We walked through our house and said good-bye to each room, sharing memories of our time in those rooms and thanking God, in tears, for the place. We gave away beloved things to beloved friends. We openly and emphatically acknowledged our losses. We were confident in two things: our time in California was over; our unity as a family, and our love for our friends and the place wasn’t. We’ve said good-bye to past places too often not to have learned how to do it better. And so we mark endings with the ritual of good-bye to our house, and we don’t shy away from telling stories of our time in that place.
Victor Turner introduced the anthropological concept of liminality, the idea that the threshold, the ritual in-between place, is where change and creativity, upheaval and chaos occur. A caterpillar builds itself into a chrysalis. Within the hard exterior shell, the caterpillar’s body disintegrates into gooey pulp and is reformed into a seemingly entirely new creature, although the DNA remains the same. After we left California, we spent a month with my parents and traveled across the country. In this neutral time, we explored Nevada and Nebraska, listened to California-dominant playlists, and too many This American Life podcasts. We played with cousins and hiked in mountains. It was an in-between stage that allowed us time to grieve and step out of our normal rhythms. We thought creatively about living in a car together, and made short-term goals to leave Colorado.
Emerging from a chrysalis is not easy, I imagine, but the result is Oh, so beautiful. The butterfly appears, quite unlike the caterpillar, the “expression of a new identity,” and yet, still the same creature. We arrived in Indianapolis and purposefully took steps to settle. We Made a Plan to explore our new city; we bought extra tickets to events, inviting new friends to join us. We walked through our new home and prayed a blessing in each room, saying “hello” after we’d said “good-bye” to place in California. Our boys participated in settling, choosing colors and painting their own bedrooms. We introduced ourselves to our new church community and someone there quickly hired our oldest son for a summer job.
The church I serve is 125 years old. It has had many life cycles. Its first iteration included a “Hustling Hundred” men’s group, a lovely euphemism for the KKK. Another iteration promoted membership numbers and competition, growing the church into the largest in our movement—about 2000 in the 1920s. Another cycle saw us as an urban mission, handing out food and clothing to “needy people” as our neighborhood’s demographics changed. And our current iteration expresses itself as an asset-based community, seeking to join the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God in this place. On the horizon though, is the very change precipitated by our current success. Gentrification, occupied homes, and more stable family situations are creeping out from the interior of the city onto the Near Eastside. As we prepare for this influx of “stability,” we will need to navigate that change with a healthy transition transformation into another re-creation.
I’m encouraged, however, because we’ve managed it before; renewal is possible. This transformation brings to mind Jesus’ use of the Last Supper as a liminal space between coalescing his followers, shaping his ministry, and, through his death and resurrection, ushering in the age of the Holy Spirit and the unleashing of the Kingdom of God. As Pentecost approaches this Sunday, I pray for our willingness to (again) let go and allow the Spirit to transform us.
 William and Susan Bridges, Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change, (Da Capo Press, 2016), 30.
 Ibid., 31.
 Ibid., 37.
 Ibid., 38-39.
 Ibid., 49.
 Ibid., 52.
 Ibid., 65.
 Ibid., 67.
 Ibid., 99.
 Ibid., 94.