The Discovery Zone
The way of the wilderness is a picture of change and transition. In the same way life consists of a series of choices and consequences, it also true that one’s life is a succession of changes and transitions. Anyone who has experienced a change in their life, undoubtedly, has also faced a transition. Perhaps you’re dealing with a change in your life now, or maybe you have begun to navigate your way through a transition. Is there a difference between a change and a transition? Absolutely. “Change” and “transition” aren’t words that should be used interchangeably, not if you’re going to successfully manage change and the challenges of transition.
Since change is not the same as transition, what is the difference? Change is always situational. For example: a new job, a new church or ministry, a new assignment, a new budget or policy, etc. On the other hand, transition is the emotional process one goes through to come to terms with the new situation. Change is always external, transition is always internal. Every change in your life means something has ended and something else starts with a new beginning. Change and transition is about you and your individual journey the changed situation. All of us, regardless of level, will go through some change reaction. It isn’t the changes that do a number on us in life. All of us have gone through changes, all of us have faced changes, challenges, tests and trials, but those are not the things that do us in. It’s not the changes; it’s the transitions. I call these transitions, “The Discovery Zone.”
There’s a marked difference between change and transition. And we need to know what’s happening to us in these processes. Although change is not the same as transition, change will always give birth to a transition. Change is situational. You may change churches, change friends, change your address, get engaged, get married, get divorced, change jobs, get promoted, or experience the change of a having a new baby born into your family. Now that is a real change.
This writer being the father of five children knows firsthand that every newborn addition to the family is bonifided change. But I also know that the real challenges for my wife and I begin after we brought the new babies home. It wasn’t the changes that stretched us—it was the transitions. The transitions presented an emotional process we went through to come to terms with the new situation, i.e., thoughts, feelings, and concerns of having adequate resources to provide for a growing family, the emotional reaction that the older children would display toward the newly born, and our need to adjust ministry, career, and educational plans in order to be the God-ordained primary caregivers of this new child.
Change is external. Change has to do with things that happen on the outside of us. Transition has to do with the things we feel, the things we think as we go through the process of trying to come to terms with the changes and the new situations in our lives. Transition always has to do with the psychological and the emotional process we go through when we are faced with a change. The things we thought; the things we felt; and the things we thought and felt that we haven’t uttered to a single soul. These internal things that we go through has to do with the transitions, not the change.
After a change occurs, there is nothing we can do about it, but there is a lot we can do about the transition as a result of the change. The discovery zone has to do with the internal transition process and every one of us go through that. It’s like the guy who’s about to get married. He’s told everybody at his bachelor party, “Yeah, just as soon as tomorrow comes and she says ‘I do’, I’m going to straighten her out. Don’t worry about a thing because I’m the man.” Let me tell you something, this young man is in for a rude awakening and a big change. If you have been married long enough, and especially if you’ve been married as long as I (thirty-nine years at this writing), you know you can’t change that woman!
For this young man, the wedding and the ceremony is an external change, but after the wedding, after the ceremony and particularly after the honeymoon, then the transition sets in and he’s got all these things going in his head. “I wonder if I did the right thing, I didn’t know she was like that.” This is all part of the transition process.
In the discovery zone your attitudes and feelings toward God, yourself and others are exposed. The emotional reaction to change and transition reveal how you really feel about god, yourself and others. Furthermore, it reveals your “truth” so that you can’t lie to yourself any longer. Moreover, you are forced to deal with your feelings and emotions because you can’t go back and undo the change. If try to undo the change, you abort the transition. But if you abort the transition, that simply means you’ve also forfeited the new beginning. There is no such thing as something changing, without something ending. Something has to end. Something has to begin. If it doesn’t end, it won’t begin.
It is interesting to note that the Chinese language presents an interesting way of thinking about change. The Chinese character for “crisis,” (what most of us feel like when we’re going through a significant change) is a combination of two characters and those two characters are “danger” and “opportunity.” With every change that we experience in life, there will be a sense of loss or a sense of gain. There will be danger or there will be opportunity. Now a change can potentially hurt us or a change can make us stronger if we recognize the opportunity it affords. For example, if you feel like a changed situation has given you lemons in life, you still have the power of choice. You can either suck bitter lemons or you can make lemonade. I believe God wants us to make lemonade out of the lemons we experience in life. I don’t believe it’s God’s will for us to go around with a grotesque looking face, with a grimace and a frown from the bitter sucking of lemons. It’s time to make lemonade!