Several weeks ago, I wrote about a major change I was preparing to experience. I was leaving the familiar (i.e., safe, predictable, stable, comfortable) for the unknown (i.e., scary, unpredictable, uncertain, uncomfortable). At that time, I observed:
“In my mind, there are two main postures I can choose to embrace toward change. I can be a tortoise. Or, I can be a caterpillar … I want to be a caterpillar.”
In the face of danger, a tortoise withdraws into his protective shell, his little world. He remains still, waits for the danger to pass, and slowly continues at the same pace and in the same direction. A caterpillar, however, lives to change. She always moves toward it, preparing for it, embracing it. And, when the time is right, she emerges, transformed.
On Monday, I began a new career. And, as a bonus, I got a view that’s beautiful enough to make a butterfly jealous! It is refreshing to be on this side of this change. But, one of the unexpected experiences is that I have been contacted by a number of people who are struggling through significant changes of their own. Many of them have asked me the same questions and thought the same thoughts as me. The key question for all of us going through sometimes painful changes is:
Will we chose to be tortoises or caterpillars?
I have made a few observations about responding to change through this process. I want to share them in the hope that they might help some of my friends:
1. Changes can alter you outwardly without altering you inwardly.
When the caterpillar emerges from metamorphosis she looks completely different. But, inside, she’s still made of the same stuff. I entered this season of transition uncertain about what I would experience or what I would look like on the other end. But, I remained absolutely sure about who I was, what I believed, and what was right, true, and good. I have begun anew in entirely different surroundings but I feel just as certain—no, more certain—about God’s love and plan for me as well as how he wants to work through me.
2. Changes open the doors to incredible opportunities.
I’ve never seen a flying caterpillar. Without metamorphosis, a caterpillar would never experience the thrill of flight. That describes my experience. Instead of being dull, boring, and depressing, I count this as one of the most exhilarating seasons in recent memory. Instead of being nervous to meet new people and ask for help (more on that below), I found it thrilling to network, ask questions, secure leads, and make new connections. Each phone conversation, email correspondence, and coffee meeting led to even more connections and left me feeling energized and charged up about all of the opportunities around me. And, all of those conversations have started some great things.
3. Changes are wonderful at providing clarity.
Stability and predictability have the uncanny ability to lull us into complacency, blur our focus, and make us forget what is most important. Changes force you to take inventory of what—that is, who—is most important to you. For me, that answer is simple: it’s my wife, my son, my family and my close friends. This season afforded the most wonderful opportunity to spend huge amounts of time with the people who are in the center of my world. Knowing what is most important is incredibly freeing when you’re going through change. Change provides the gift of clarity.
4. You’re not in it alone.
I’ve never been good at asking for help. This situation has forced me to break through that barrier. And, I’ve been overwhelmed by the willingness—even eagerness—of people to do whatever they could to help. Family and friends prayed, fasted, and offered godly advice. Network connections shared wisdom and sent letters of introduction. Connected friends stuck out their own necks to provide their endorsements of my character and ability. And my wife—Oh, wow, my wife!—has been a force of nature, going above and beyond to do everything within her power to aid me through this process.
Change is difficult. Nobody chooses to go through painful and uncertain transitions. But, when they happen, we must realize we’ve been given an incredible gift … if we chose to be a caterpillar and not a tortoise.
What about you?
What changes are you experiencing? What are you learning?