When we settled back in the U.S. last year after our living in South Asia, it felt like the world had moved on without us while we occupied another plane of existence altogether. We might as well have been returning from outer space. My family got used to living in partially packed houses or out of suitcases in someone’s guest room. We spent the last four years of our lives in one form or another of visible transition.
When we stopped long enough to deal with how all the change had given us many gifts but also many scars, we opened our eyes to those in transition all around us. Ours was obvious because it included suitcases and tearful goodbyes.
But what about the friend who went back to work after years of staying home with the kids? There was the recently retired family member and a friend coming to grips with the limits her chronic illness gave her. We saw parents struggling with children’s learning difficulties or developmental stages, young adults stuck between college and “real life,” marriages falling apart and new families blending, moving between foster homes, adoption, leaving home, and returning to faith after years of anger with God. And these were just the people in our immediate circles!
“This is the invitation we find in navigating loss,” says Butz, “to let go of who we thought we were to find who we truly are.”
I snatched up a copy of Gina Butz’s book Making Peace with Change: Navigating Life’s Messy Transitions with Honesty and Grace because I knew I needed it. It was obvious I was in the definition of a messy transition every time someone asked me how I was doing and tears started running down my cheeks. Having read some of Butz’s work before, I knew she also had lived overseas.
Making Peace with Change takes us through the often hidden parts of transition: hard, loss, desire, expectations, and grief. Butz weaves God’s truth throughout her personal story of expected and unexpected change raising a family in Asia. The chapter titles themselves speak to the way the book gives us anchor points to hold to throughout the changing tides of life (ex, Chapter 1: Navigating the Hard, Chapter 2: Anchored in His Goodness).
Though her story was significantly different than mine, I did see myself in the pages of the book. I nodded along with descriptions of international life and how the physical move reflects an inner turmoil we undergo in seasons of change.
I worry people will discount Butz’s story as having little impact on their own lives if they say, “but I’ve lived in the same place my whole life.” While the circumstances of our lives may be drastically different, the feelings we undergo in times of change, loss, and new life are universal. There is much to be learned from someone who has navigated so much change and brought vital lessons to light for the rest of us.
There are constant moments of threshold in our lives, when we pass from one season into the next (and sometimes we spend much time in what feels like a wasteland in the middle). Some are by choice, but most catch us off guard. All of these thresholds include some sort of loss. We often don’t look for what those times have to teach us because we are trying to simply survive them. I appreciated that Making Peace with Change directed us back to self-reflection. What does this have to teach us about who we are? “This is the invitation we find in navigating loss,” says Butz, “to let go of who we thought we were to find who we truly are.”
“Transition is an invitation to experience the gospel.” Gina Brenna Butz
I think people might not pick up this book if they don’t see themselves going through a transition. Everything seems fine (or you can pretend well that it is). Life may feel mundane and tedious, even. You may be screaming, “Yeah, I wish something would change already!”
Our big transition to the U.S. is nearing its ninth month and I am already identifying more changes that are brewing. Our daughter is standing at the brink of adolescence; we’re about to enter the frightening world of middle school. My husband is starting a new job. I’m exploring new avenues in my writing career. Nothing in life stays steady forever. Change will come, ready or not.
I read and listened to a lot about change over the past year. The one thing I appreciated most about Butz’s story was that she doesn’t just point us to self-reflection but deeper into relationship with God. “Transition is an invitation to experience the gospel. The gospel shows us that we cannot captain our own ships. We were never meant to,” says Butz. It tells us that there is despair, but there is hope. Something must die to make way for new life. The good news is that God uses transition to move us away from ourselves, away from our idols and false substitutes for life, and toward a greater dependence and rootedness in Him.”
The anchors Butz gives us to cling to are fixed points (for what else is stable in this world but God?). Anchoring ourselves on the truth, whether life seems to be stagnant or shifting all around us, is a good practice. Whether you are currently going through a major transition or waiting for things to change, I think having this book on your shelf, and these truths in your back pocket, will help steady you for whatever life brings.
Gina Butz and her husband, Erik, have served in full time ministry for 25 years, 13 of them in East Asia. They are currently raising their two third culture kids and an imported dog in Orlando, Florida, where Gina serves in global leadership development at Cru headquarters. Her first book, Making Peace with Change: Navigating Life’s Messy Transitions with Honesty and Grace, released February 4th. She blogs at www.ginabutz.com and loves to connect on Twitter and Facebook.