Caple is another writer who has thought a great deal about transitions, particularly as they relate to changing our career. He suggests that we are in fact, continually undergoing a transition process – a kind of Career Cycle.
Caple notes the following parts of the cycle:
Discontent – with what we are doing.
Exploration – beginning to seek out possibilities.
Commitment to change – letting go of the past and setting sail for some (often unknown) future.
Renewal – a re-discovered sense of well-being and confidence. The traveller is refreshed and experiences increased energy.
Consolidation – coming back to reality, time to settle down a little.
Recommitment – acknowledging completion of the whole process, and dedicating ourselves to the tasks ahead.
Discontent … and so it goes on.
Though both Bridges and Caple identify valuable steps along the path of transition, neither would suggest that every change includes every step. As you adapt this information for your own life, remember that each situation differs. A time of transition for you may include some of these stages, and omit some. Occasionally all may be present.
Caple’s suggestion – that transitions, particularly those relating to occupations, may have a cyclical nature – is consistent with the concept of seasons/times that Ecclesiastes writes about:
“There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot…
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh…
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them…
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak….” (Ecclesiastes 3:1ff.)
“A time” – the phrase carries with it a sense of divine appointment. God intends for us to have times of activity and of rest, times in our lives of great energy, of accomplishment, but also times when we pull back for a period of replenishment, to reflect on what has happened and to prepare and envision the future. There are seasons in our lives for various things, and rhythms of living under God’s grace.
As we noted in the previous chapter, in one sense the Bible can be viewed as a series of crises and transitions. And the dominant one in the Old Testament – at least as far as the Jewish people are concerned – is the exodus of Israel from Egypt which brings them eventually to settle in the Promised Land.
This is a powerful example of the transition of a whole people, and of God’s dealings with them. First there is a call to change. Initially it is muted, but the increasingly harsh treatment by the Egyptians stirs up discontent among the Israelites over their present situation. A longing for something more arises. God provides a leader to channel the rising voices into a movement demanding change.
Other elements of the story illustrate many of the steps along the transition process. There is the pull of the status quo, trying to keep the people from change (Pharoah’s determination: “I will not let you go”). Passover night represents the reaching of a commitment to change, and the crossing of the Red Sea represents the point of no return. They then enter the vacillating experience of the neutral zone – in the desert, where doubts arise about God’s provision, questions surface, complaints are voiced. (“We want to go back to Egypt!”)
Then comes the pull of new beginnings –the Promised Land is close. But there is deep anxiety and apprehension about the challenges that lie ahead, with reports from the spies about giants in the land (“What kind of promised land is this?”). Their cold feet lead them back into the wilderness, wandering aimlessly (so it seems) for forty years.
However, eventually the new beginnings can be grasped again. There is fresh energy and vision. Crossing the Jordan, taking the cities and the land, settling down and establishing their life as a free people under God – all this takes time. But it happens. Israel enters a new season together as the people of God. The transition is finally complete.
We would all like our times of transition to be smooth and speedy. Like turning right at a T-intersection. A decisive, definite and deliberate change in direction. Over quickly, and on to new sights...
Some may indeed be like that but most are, as the word “transition” implies, a process or period of evolution. A change of season is like driving round a slowly turning bend. It takes time (though generally not as long as the forty years in the wilderness!). It can also be very frustrating because not until we are right around the corner do we see what’s up ahead.
Like so many things in life, a transition is much easier to view in retrospect. The lack of vision and direction we experience is eventually forgotten as we move forward into new territory. Looking back we discover God’s hand at work – when all we could see in the midst of it was confusion.
J. Caple, Career cycles: A guidebook to success in the passages and challenges of your work life (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1983).