In the missions world you hear lots of talk about how "transition" is so hard. If I'm honest, I've often wondered why people act like it's such a big deal. I wondered if transition just took the blame for something else people weren't admitting about themselves.
And then it hit me. And it hit me hard. Last month. On my way to East Africa.
After a flurry of craziness to get out of the house with all our suitcases, we checked in and were rushing to the gate in Cape Town. Alas, we were off. We arrived in Johannesburg and made good on our coffee "layover" appointment with a friend at the airport. We thoroughly enjoyed our chat. So much so that I paid no attention to the time- or my boarding pass. After running through the airport (3 of us, mind you), we arrived at the gate at 9:51 for our 10:10 flight. The gate was closed at 9:50. And they were not budging. We missed our flight. I was flooded with emotion like I hadn't been in a long, long time. I banged the counter. Then stormed off. Within 60 seconds I was now crying. After negotiating for 2 hours, we nestled into the reality that we would not be getting to Nairobi until tomorrow and that I would be missing several strategic meetings. And not without spending more money (than we had budgeted).
We arrive in Nairobi the next day, unpack, and realize I packed ZERO underwear.
July 15: call Tricia from Johannesburg crying that I've missed my flight. #notme
July 16: call Tricia from Nairobi that I have no underwear. #notme
July 17: Tricia messages me "I'm very worried about you. You're really not yourself. I think you might be totally underestimating the impact that this transition is having on you."
July 18: I cry a lot, grab hold of what I'm feeling and finally admit it. I'm not doing well.
Transition is hard! And transition with a family is NO JOKE.
My tendency is to happy-up the crowd. Minimize the pain. We got this. Come on guys! What an adventure. God is good. Yeah, Noah, God IS good, but transition is not always GOOD and right now it feels BAD. It hurts.
In the days that followed our family journeyed around Kenya and Scouted Tanzania. And we felt many strange emotions. It was a "MESSessary" trip. We are so glad we went. We will be so much more prepared when we arrive in 2016.
The more Tricia and I processed, God showed us what we are actually facing. Quintuple Transition!
- Exit South Africa.
- Enter America.
- Have a baby.
- Exit America.
- Enter Tanzania.
5 major transitions in 10 months. Starting now. On your mark, get set. Go!
This is not funny. With a family of 4, soon to be 5. But when this penny dropped for me, it changed everything.
However, I still longed for language to capture what exactly makes transition so hard...until I had a deep heart conversation with a friend in Kenya who drove it home for me in a way I'll never forget.
When we are in transition, we are forced to make many new decisions every day. Decisions you don't normally make. Strange ones. Hard ones. Emotional ones. Ones that impact your bank account. Your marriage. Your home. Your kids. Pack this. Don't pack that. Book that flight. Cancel that appointment. Change that plan. Schedule this. Sell that. And on and on it goes. Weird, new, once off decisions abound. And as you make them, your capacity (which is limited!) lessens. Your capacity for "normal" decisions just is not what it "normally" is. So a pile of clothes in the floor overwhelms you. "I can't pick that up right now", you yell. Or your kids first warning sounds like their fifth. You're on edge. You're actually literally less of a person in the midst of transition, my friend explained. And how right he is.
Bandwidth is limited.
Capacity is less.
Transition is hard! And somehow now my missed flight and underwear adventure seems to make a bit more sense.