Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight. -Proverbs 3:5-6
For most of my life, I’ve more or less treasured transitions. In the earlier years, they represented a sort of elevation from something good (usually) to something greater. I’ll never forget upgrading from sharing a room with my sister (who didn’t appreciate my toys stabbing her in the thigh as she slept) to my own room with bay windows and high ceilings. I still have the scar on my right leg from when I, a confident preteen, decided I was ready to start shaving my legs (against my mother’s protests) and naively pressed the razor blade as hard as I could into my shin, removing a sizeable chunk of skin. High school for me, like many others, wasn’t a favorite chapter, so I was ecstatic to graduate, leave the suburbs behind, and head a whopping forty-five minutes to my dream university. Years later, after spending too many Saturday nights studying and mentally rotating organic chemistry molecules around in my head, I almost couldn’t believe I was accepted into dental school to start my dream career (though I wish someone had told me it would just be more studying). Many evening phone calls to patients and literally hundreds of exams later, I was excited to transition to the life of dental resident Dr. Grant, roaming around the veterans hospital seeking smiles to restore to oral health… until of course, the lure of private practice called my name.
Somewhere along the line, I realized that things don’t always go as expected, and transitions aren’t always as smooth as my favorite brand of creamy peanut butter. Let’s just say I’ve had the threads on the matted rug of life pulled out from under me more than once in the past year via a pandemic (duh) and a few job description changes. I’ve realized that generally after making a decision that led to a sour situation, it can be difficult to trust myself to make a wiser choice the next time. After all, we often don’t receive the consequences of our decisions and transitions right away. It’s all too easy to speculate all the things that can go wrong if we make another “wrong” turn. How do I know I won’t mess up again? What if I’m just a terrible judge of character? What if my candidate isn’t elected? What if I end up in the same situation as last time? What if things are worse than they were? What if, what if, what if?
I don’t have a big answer to the aforementioned questions. This is one of those awkward times where I’m writing about something I’m still struggling with immensely. Here’s one strategy that has helped me-
Remember El Roi.
One of my favorite stories in the Bible is also one of the most painful. In Genesis 16, Hagar, a [contextual] slave to Sarai, the wife of OG Abram, is pregnant with Abram’s illegitimate son, and she has just been banished from their home. I can easily soapbox for an hour about how Hagar only slept with Abram because Sarai (who thought she was eternally barren and ignored God’s promise to give her a child in late life) literally demanded Hagar to do so in an effort to provide him a son, and how she was punished for following orders even though everyone was aware of the potential consequences, etc. But I digress.One of the most redemptive moments is when the Lord appears to a fatigued Hagar near a spring in the desert on the road to Shur. I imagine Hagar, desolate and desperate, barely aware of the water trickling from the spring. Perhaps she replayed every decision made that had led her to this moment. Is it possible she thought bearing the son of Abram would elevate her status from servant to one who shared the comforts and even affection Sarai received? What a transition that would have been. Instead, she’d ended up here, alone, tired, and neglected. I wouldn’t be surprised if she felt regret or doubted her decision-making, whether or not she had the social liberty to do so. But God. He appeared to her, gave her a promise and information about her future. Was it all good news? Nah; in fact, He described her future son as a “wild donkey of a man”. He also told her to return to servanthood under Sarai and Abram. That is not insignificant, but to me, the bigger and more reassuring piece is that God saw her, He heard her, and He spoke to her. Being before and behind and above and below all time is a pretty inspiring vantage point, isn’t it? In the next verses, Hagar declares the omnipotence of God. “She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me.’ That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi [meaning well of the Living One who sees me, insertion mine]; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered” (Genesis 16:13-14). I find it immensely comforting and encouraging to remember that in the midst of awful situations or just challenging, confusing transitions, whether or not we made mistakes or not, God is not surprised, and He has not forgotten us. He sees us in the mess, and He will not leave us in it.
Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all His benefits- who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. - Psalms 103:2-5.
Call them transitions, bad chapters, mistakes, whatever- we’re going to make good and bad decisions. Even when we’re Spirit-led, we’re going to end up in situations we probably wouldn’t have chosen for ourselves (hello, apostle Paul). But we can be content in any circumstance because we know we are not abandoned and we are not defeated because we are in Christ. I am praying over my heart and yours that we learn to trust God more in the hard moments, and to rest easy knowing that He is El Roi, nothing is too hard for Him, and His plans (and transitions) for us are good. Periodt.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, not anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 8:37-39