Friday, August 7, 2009

The Trouble with Transformation ~ Part II

This sharing has been heavy on my heart ... as I'm currently experiencing the imminent loss of a relationship, due to the transformations I've personally gone through in the past few years. My heart is heavy with a plethora of emotions ... remembering the many good times, as well as the wretchedly painful times, trying to reconcile it all in my mind ... trying to honor it all, and hold it all in my heart ... wanting to see it all from God's higher/deeper transcendent-perceptive ... to better understand, to better learn from it, to better live with it as part of the joy/pain ambiguity that makes up so very much of the human adventure.

I can assure you of two things:

- Transformation can indeed be very, very costly.
- Transformation is ultimately worth what it costs.

I'll be writing largely from a place of heavy emotion in this post, rather than from an organized mind ... so bear with me, and hopefully it will all fall into place before it's said and done.

I see transformation as a necessary-but-messy process ... not unlike the birth process. Both are conceived in a moment of wild-abandon ... both end up with an "expansion" ... both come to an agonizing place of transition ... and both end up giving birth to a new form of life. If you ask either one, in the midst of the transition, if it's a joyous thing, you're likely to be hit, or bit or annihilated, LOL! Oh, and let's not forget that the "new life" must be nurtured, treasured, honored and loved. Neither will thrive well with benign neglect, much less abuse.

During that transition-time, when we're no longer what we were, and yet not quite what we will be, it's agonizing, no doubt about it. There's a sort of "shuffling of normalcy", when we're off-center, askew, flailing. And usually sporting a dazed, wide-eyed expression. It feels like a falling-apart ... like utter chaos. That which we thought we knew, thought we were standing upon, is gone, shattered, and it can feel like a free-fall. and yet, this pattern of falling apart precedes each transition to a new vista of faith. If we're not prepared (or don't learn how) to live with the inevitable anxiety that the chaos ushers in, then we can't well move into deeper awarenesses of faith, or more intimacy with God.

I notice that each encounter with God in scripture, each transition-account, begins with a warning to not be afraid. Fear is to be expected ... it's a given. But we don't have to give in to it ... we can truly come to see that while it can *feel* like our lives are falling apart, our lives are finally coming together ... perhaps for the first time.

Letting go of what we *think* we know to be true (or even "all truth"), letting go of what's familiar, is painful -- it's a strong suffering. But the old has to die to make room for the new ... it's a way of life, if we're going to follow Jesus (He's the Way ... the way out of the old, and into the new ... not just once, but repeatedly).

The old paradigm of thinking is black and white, right and wrong, good and evil -- duality. Such a perspective has been called a "dangerous naivete" ... it doesn't know, but it thinks it does. In thinking it knows, it resists anything new from coming in. But in the new paradigm, darkness and light coexist ... paradox is a way of life. In this realm, death is a part of life, and failure is part of being victorious ... and we learn from our mistakes. Opposites crash and unite ... and everything belongs (it always did). In this realm, there is nothing profane ("outside the temple"), for all is holy.

But there's no "direct flight" from the first paradigm to the second ... most of us have to go through the transformational/transitional stages ... and sometimes repeatedly. It always feels like we're falling apart ... we have to move outside our comfort zones, and allow ourselves the permission to feel lost and confused for a time. The previous ways die away, so that the new ways can emerge. For a while, we're in "no man's land."

It seems to me that the most profound transitions tend to occur in the second half of life (or, perhaps earlier, if the person has "lived hard" and has been shaken out of complacency earlier). I've heard it said that the challenge of the second half of life is very often the re-embracing of what we have long denied, rejected and feared. We come face to face with that which we've spent a lifetime avoiding ... it's as if our "repression sphincter muscle" wears out, or it's warranty expires...!

Transformation is not only terrifying to those who go through it, but to those who witness it. Transformation upsets status quo ... it can throw relationships off-balance - particularly if the relationship was invested in following a script (subconsciously, of course). When our equilibrium is threatened, we tend to self-protect ... to shut down, to hold back, to go within. So it can be in relationships when one is transforming in a particular way, and the other is not. All too often, the relationship can be sacrificed, in favor of feeling "safe and secure" with what's familiar. I wonder how many transformations have been cut short and abandoned, because the one transforming couldn't take the abandonment of those who didn't understand...? How many quit the journey, in favor of conforming to group-think?

I honestly don't see transformation as optional. We can put it off, sure, but to our detriment. The only constant in life, it seems, is change. To live in the now, the present moment (the only moment in which we can engage with God who is called "I AM"), we have to let go of who we were yesterday ... we have to go with "what is" in the present moment... the eternal now. Unfortunately, most of our culture, particularly the Christian culture, focuses either on the glorified past, or the ever-pending utopian future. When we forfeit the now, we miss life, and we resist transformation ... perhaps the only suffering greater than transformation is the suffering that comes with the resistance of transformation.

So, is it worth it? Is it worth it to allow ourselves to be transformed from who we *thought* we were into who we *really* are (and this, I believe, is a huge part of following Christ)? Is it worth it when friends abandon us, when family questions our sanity, when churches excommunicate us, when communities misunderstand and blame us?

Only you can answer for yourself. After a lifetime of living-in-conformity (no, I was merely existing, not living), and after a shorter time of experiencing severe transformation (with all of the inherent fall-out), I can say, "YES." I can say it with tears, with a heavy heart, with an ache in my soul ... and yet I say it with transcendent joy that over-arches the pain ... no, it embraces and absorbs the pain, transforming it into more joy. Odd though that sounds, it's what I've experienced, as I've learned - to my utter astonishment - that it is, indeed, worth it.

Have you ever run into those rare folks who have been chewed up and spit out, and yet there's something deep shining out of their eyes? Yeah, those ones know about the paradoxical pain/joy of transition and transformation. Hang out with those folks ... you can learn a lot by just being in their presence ... even if they never utter a word.

Methinks there's a Part III wanting to get out ...

Shalom, Dena

4 comments:

MysticBrit said...

This is so beautiful to read, Dena. Thank you so much for making what must be an intense pain so public.

May your transformation be rich and many-hued, like the butterfly out of the chrysalis.

For myself, waking up from fifty years of what I see now as a sleep-walking existence has been by turns gut-wrenching agony, sublime peace and everything in between, as I learn to live in the Eternal Now. It's the only place to Be, but then I don't think I need to tell you that;)

Love to ya, Sister!

Harry

Dena said...

Thank you, Harry ... I'm glad I'm able to share it -- it's a healing thing to do so. And if it's possible to learn vicariously -- have at it!

:)

Rich said...

Dena,

This spoke to me very strongly, “During that transition-time, when we're no longer what we were, and yet not quite what we will be, it's agonizing, no doubt about it. There's a sort of "shuffling of normalcy", when we're off-center, askew, flailing. And usually sporting a dazed, wide-eyed expression. It feels like a falling-apart ... like utter chaos. That which we thought we knew, thought we were standing upon, is gone, shattered, and it can feel like a free-fall. and yet, this pattern of falling apart precedes each transition to a new vista of faith. If we're not prepared (or don't learn how) to live with the inevitable anxiety that the chaos ushers in, then we can't well move into deeper awarenesses of faith, or more intimacy with God.”

My wife told me the other day talking with a naturalist that when the Monarch Caterpillar enters into the chrysalis stage it basically turns into a soupy-jelly like substance, a dissolving of all that it was and through the metamorphosis is transformed into an air born creature~wow!

Dena said...

Rich - I can SO relate to that soupy-jelly-gooey stage ...! It's right after the "I felt the earth move under my feet, I felt the sky tumblin' down" stage!!!

I feel like an all-wet butterfly, emerging out of the cocoon, not sure what I'm seeing, and both shocked and loving it!