Leader to Leader

How to Avoid Drowning While Transitioning

November 7, 2016 | Posted by Emilie Finke

At about five years old, I did not know the definition of the word “frenemy.” Had I known then that a frenemy was a person with whom one is friendly despite a fundamental dislike or rivalry (thanks, Google) I would never have gone into a swimming pool with one in the first place.

She looked at me with a mischievous glint in her eye (I only say “mischievous” because it seems harsh to call a five-year-old evil), “I dare you to swim without touching the side of the pool.”

It’s important that you know I grew up incredibly landlocked. Like, the stare out your window and see miles of cornfields on all four sides kind of landlocked. I was not a good or even adequate swimmer. But so help me, the frenemy dared… what was I supposed to do?

My fingers slowly let go of the pool wall and I waited helplessly, stubbornly, as the water came up over my neck, over my nose, over my eyes. I started gasping and splashing and frantically screaming silently as water filled my mouth.

Flash forward 20 years: I am finally an adequate swimmer, and yet I felt like a drowning five-year-old when I was recently asked to transition from a role I felt confident in, to a new role – a role that was exciting and difficult and way over my head.

Of course, it’s not uncommon in church work to wear many different hats or to ease into different hats year to year, season to season. I’m fresh in the ministry world – only been doing this thing for a couple years – and already I’ve had to transition to new roles, add things, and drop things more than a few times. But this was a slightly more substantial transition. It was more public. It felt like there was more weighing on it. This transition excited, terrified, and affected me more than the ones before it.

I felt the water inching towards my neck, my nose, my eyes… I knew I had to get it together if I didn’t want to drown.

If you’re in the midst of a transition, whether big or small, here are a few ways to avoid drowning:

1.) Continue the Conversation. Talk. Find safe people in your life who you can be honest with about the insecurities, frustrations, and joys this new role is bringing you. Be transparent with God in your prayers. It will keep you from imploding and you may get some solid wisdom to boot!

2.) Learn to Say No. When transitioning to a new role, there is a temptation to hang on tightly to the old role as well. Maybe you still have that old role. Maybe you have four or five old and new roles you get the joy of juggling at the same time. Things still need to change. Shuffle your schedule a bit and take a good, hard look at what’s on your plate. Be a good steward of your time, your mind, and your family by saying no to certain things, goodbye to others, and delegating the day away. It may hurt. Some things may not look the way you want them to for awhile. You will probably disappoint someone. But the people closest to you will thank you in the end, and Jesus seems to be in favor as well. (Luke 10:38-42)

3.) Find Your Fairy Godmother. Perhaps Obi-Wan Kenobi is a better reference for those of you not into princess movies. But either way and by any means necessary, find your mentor. A month into my new role, I emailed a woman who had been where I was a few years back. Without really knowing her and with zero expectations, I asked if she would be willing to just meet up and talk. God blessed that interaction immensely. She is now someone I know I can lean on for advice, encouragement, prayer. Find someone who can be in your corner to give both practical tools and spiritual wisdom during an overwhelming season.

4.) God Knows. Whether this transition ends up working splendidly or failing miserably; whether it’s your dream role or you’re moving on begrudgingly; no matter the circumstance, God has you right where you are for a reason. It may not be your forever but it is certainly your right now. Embrace the craziness a new role brings. Lean into the feelings and emotions it stirs. Dig into the lessons being learned.

At some point, you’ll look up and realize the transition is over and a new season has begun. For now, God is never wrong. He’s never not in control. And he’s always, always good.

Emilie Finke
Emilie Finke is a daughter of Christ with a heart for millennials. She graduated from Concordia University Texas and is currently serving as worship leader, women’s ministry, and social media coordinator at The Point Church in Knoxville, TN. She loves good coffee paired with good music on a long road trip, conversations that get way too personal way too fast, and any well-placed pun. But Jesus is even better than all that. Check out more of her thoughts on all things life and Jesus at meanderingsandramblings.com.