DSC00771Minivans and suburbans troll for parking. Pedestrians walk in clumps with fistfuls of flowers. It’s graduation day. This year I, too, got to enjoy the flurry of excitement. Family and friends (who may as well be family for all they’ve put up with from me) came to my seminary graduation. After four years of immersion in theological and ministerial training, the end called “commencement” arrived. I had been eagerly anticipating this day for years–even before enrolling in seminary. Yet with the end that is a beginning, comes its share of confusion, uncertainty and loss.

A year ago I had a plan. Four years ago I had an entirely different plan. Next year, God knows. And that’s been my answer to the well-intentioned yet horrible question, “what’s next?” God knows when I’ll be in a position of ministry in a church. God knows when I’ll apply to grad school for doctoral work. God knows what’s next, not just for me but for my family as well. When we cannot plan out our next month, it’s rather silly to presume to know anything. Which is why, as cheesy and simple-minded as it sounds, the only option is to trust God, most especially in and through transitions.

My first quarter at seminary were my last months working at a large financial institution that failed. While I hadn’t worked there for long, less than five years, I felt the upheaval change brought onto my coworkers. Anyone who had participated in the employee share purchasing program watched their earnings shrink to nothing as anxiety and fear for their job position multiplied. Some jumped ship early. The rest of us took advantage of the “transition services” offered. Transitions are strange things. I’ve known people who flourish in transitions, while others careen through with eyes half shut. And at the end of the day, there is no getting around them. Occasionally we can manage them, but more often they pounce upon our comfortable routines, disrupting our sense of self and stability.

Transitions are crucial movements in life and in writing. A good writer can carry the reader through the most disjointed transitions by maintaining connectivity between before and after, showing change and trajectory. Similarly, difficult transitions in life seem to utterly sever any relation between past and present-future. So, how do we make it through? How do we keep any sense of integrity when our world flips inside out? Remembering.

One of my favorite passages in the book of Joshua comes when the Israelites are preparing to cross the Jordan, chapter four.

Then Joshua summoned the twelve men from the Israelites, whom he had appointed, one from each tribe. Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan, and each of you take up a stone on his shoulder, one for each of the tribes of the Israelites, so that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off in front of the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the Israelites a memorial forever.”

Stones of remembrance set up to provoke questions from the next generations. Stories repeated and passed along from elder to younger. This is how we weather transitions: we remember that someone has been here before. We do not change jobs, or leave grad school, or move from point a to point b on our own. There is a story of someone having gone before us. The terrain is likely different, and the environment more chill or more menacing–but someone has gone before us. God has gone before us, and continues to go with us, a fact both irritatingly simple and absurdly profound. Trust God.