Transitioning Well

Guest post by Matthew Bell

I just moved.

I’m thirty years old and I’ve now been a resident in twelve states. You may think I’m a missionary or grew up in a missionary’s home, but I didn’t. I’m a military kid. Home for me is not a location, but people. Wherever my parents and brothers happen to be.

I just became a pastor at a great church in sunny, warm West Palm Beach, Florida. I know, kind of rubbing it in, but it took me a very long time to get here so allow me to boast a little. Since I’ve moved, there’s been a couple of times it hit me hard that I left an amazing group of friends, a great church and a place that was starting to feel like that elusive idea of ‘home’ for an unknown, unfamiliar place where “no one knows my name.”

For instance, I was recently driving to church for our Wednesday night service and a familiar song started playing on the radio. One line hit hard, “every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” You probably know the song. Interesting fact, the band was actually quoting a Roman philosopher named Seneca, who lived during the times of Jesus. As I started singing along, all of those fears hit me again. What if I fail? What if this new beginning was premature? What if I’m still supposed to be on new beginning eleven?

You probably understand if you’ve gone through a transition. All of those fears cloud everything. In recent weeks it’s had me asking, how do you transition well? Change is an experience everyone on this planet faces, so what do we do with it? How does God want us to handle it? I am not sure I’ve come up with every possible answer to this question, but I’d like to share with you what I have. And perhaps you might have something to add to it? How do we transition in a way that glorifies God?

1) “In him we live and move and have our being…”
In my pastoral experience, one thing I’ve had to reiterate over and over to folks is that God cares about how you live. Every moment. There is no room in faith for just a Wednesday/Sunday expression of it. God cares about your entire being at every point of time. This means He’s invested in your emotions, health, feelings, moods, fears, cares and joys. Paul’s declaration that we live and move and have our being in God, through Christ, affirms Jesus’ words that we are not abandoned. Even in our moving!

2) Don’t burn bridges.
Facebook has revolutionized relationships for me because I can keep in touch with friends who are thousands of miles away. Ten years ago this would not have been possible! There’s an old saying that goes, “out of sight and out of mind.” I don’t like it. With technology bringing us closer together I don’t think this quote applies anymore. What is true though is that proximity breed’s intimacy. And because of this people who are not in proximity to each other lose touch. I have to admit that this sometimes has built resentment in my life towards those people. It makes your relationship feel shallow. As if their friendship was fake because distance changed it. This is no doubt the hardest part of transitions. Dealing with people moving on from you. But are they really moving on? I can’t count how many times I’ve seen someone after a couple of years and they come up to me and shared how important I was to them at that stage of their life. It’s almost like a part of me stayed behind and went with them and I didn’t even know it?! I’ve learned that you should never burn bridges simply because you’re no longer near that bridge.

3) You’re changing…and that’s okay! I’ve been in West Palm Beach now for a little over three months and it hit me that this church, these people and this city were changing how I thought about myself. I am still me, but I’m different. I’m bringing all of my experiences to this one and it’s educating what I thought was normal. I’m slowly discovering a new normal. Sometimes I think change creates insecurity because we realize everything we thought was normal wasn’t. And inevitably we’re faced with a decision, we could fight to make the new beginning into one of the old ones or allow the new beginning to just start from the previous beginnings end. Just like the previous one did and so on.

Transition is hard. I don’t know if we ever truly master it. But perhaps that is why God describes himself as unchanging, unmoving and the same yesterday, today and forever. So we don’t have to be?


Matt Bell
Matt is a graduate from Zion Bible College (’06, Bible) and AGTS (’09, M.Div). He recently moved to West Palm Beach to be a staff pastor. He’s still ecstatic that his Patriots are Super Bowl champions and that he was able to see his Red Sox twice in Spring Training since moving to Florida.


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