Two Key Issues in Transitions: Competence and Attachments

“I married the wrong man and I’m living in the wrong place.”

A dear friend called from the east coast of the U.S. with these opening words.

How would you respond? My response was not typical, but I knew this woman well. I felt my response needed to match her stark declaration.

“What are your choices?”

She responded, “I don’t know. I feel trapped. I’m stuck.”

“Well, why don’t you divorce him?”

“I wouldn’t. That’s not right.

“Why not?”

“It’s not biblical.”

“OK. Then, why don’t you leave?

“That wouldn’t be right either.”

“Why not?

“I don’t believe that’s biblical either.”

“Really? Tell me more.”  After hearing her understanding of God’s view on this, I responded with, “So, you are choosing to stay?”

At this point I heard a shift in her voice, “Yes…” Pause. “Yes, I guess I will stay.”

“You guess?”  She confirmed, “Yes, I will stay.”

Well then, what will you do?”

“I need to work on my attitude, my words and thoughts. I know I need to focus on loving my husband and settling down in this small town. Will you help me with this?”

This conversation simply conveys the beautiful power of choice that God gives every human being on this planet. I don’t have the power of choice for my husband—nor anyone else for that matter—neither does anyone else have the power of choice for me.

In our last blog Ending with the Beginning, we began asking strategic questions that surface when we are in transition. Typically these come to our attention in the Neutral Zone, but likely extend into the last stage of a transition: The Beginning. We discussed in our last blog.

1. Do I belong?

2. Do I matter?

3. Do I have a reasonable amount of control (power of choice)?

My east coast friend needed to be reminded that she had the power of choice. She felt stuck, but when someone asked why she didn’t leave, she aligned her own thinking with her understanding of biblical values. Realizing she had the choice brought her into a whole new freedom to move forward in her marriage.

The last four transitional themes are:

4. Am I competent?

5. Do I have meaningful attachments?

6. Do I have a sense of who I am?

7. Does my life have meaning?

4. Am I competent?

Do I feel skilled at what I am now facing? Do I need to master something new?

When we made the move across the U.S. from FL to OR, my felt need for wanting more schooling to better equip me for ministry to women increased dramatically. I had been serving the Lord most of my life, but without any training or very little mentoring. I did not feel competent and my desire for increased learning was accentuated.

I began asking God, “Is this the time for my dream to become a reality?” He clearly opened the door for me to get more education. What a blessing to have experienced and knowledgeable faculty to whom I could pose real-life questions as I began a new ministry to women in my church. And I did! LOTS of questions! They were gracious to pour into me while I was transitioning into this new Beginning. It was so exciting to see growth in so many areas as a result of their input.

My lack of competency fueled my desire for more training. God opened the door to stretch me in ways I could never have anticipated…which ultimately led me here to now teach at Western Seminary!

5. Do I have meaningful attachments?

Have I lost the mutuality of give-and-take relationships in this transition?

In our present age of technology this is so much easier to maintain close relationships from a distance. However, I still believe there is nothing quite like sitting across a cup of coffee from a woman face-to-face sharing our lives. That was a big loss in my life when moving across the U.S. from dear friends—some life-long friends—in Florida (without technology). Part of the pain of the Neutral Zone was not yet feeling attached to close friends in Oregon and yet having limited contact with dear friends “back home.”

I eventually learned that it just plain takes time to rebuild history with new people, and I could be intentional about it, or simply hope people reached out to me. Initiating life experiences together—that would become treasured memories—was a key step in forming attachments.

People with no attachments are identified as “at risk” populations. Attachments and intimacy in relationships increase strength in transition, in life. The Nurses’ Health Study from Harvard Medical School found that,

The more friends women had, the less likely they were to develop physical impairments as they aged, and the more likely they were to be leading a joyful life. In   fact, the results were so significant the researchers concluded that not having close friends or confidants was as detrimental to your health as smoking or carrying extra weight.” (UCLA Study on Friendship among Women, 2002 Gale Berkowitz, www.anapsid.org/cnd/gender/tendfend.html)

The book of I John clearly tells us that loving our brothers and sisters is one way of knowing we are children of God. Clearly the Body of Christ is meant to forge attachments in relationship that provide health and support throughout life’s transitions.

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever        seen God; but if we love one another, God loves in us and his love is made complete in us (4:11-12)

We love because he first loved us (4:19).

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. (Ro 12:10).

Whew…just counted my words and I guess this will extend further into next week’s blog, when we discuss the last two

6. Do I have a sense of who I am?

7. Does my life have meaning?