‘Turn and face the strange,’ is David Bowie’s challenge in his 1971 song ‘Changes’.
At the time he wrote this, Bowie was expecting his first child and excited by all the future had to offer. Since then, ‘Changes’ has become an anthem – particularly for youth — with the oft-quoted line, ‘These children that you spit on as they try to change their worlds, are immune to your consultations, they’re quite aware of what they’re going through.’
The truth, of course, is that none of us are immune to changes – no matter what age or stage of life we’re in. And even when we are aware that we’re going through times of change, this doesn’t mean we’re going to find them easy to navigate.
Salvation Army officers (ordained and commissioned Salvation Army ‘clergy’) routinely receive ‘marching orders’ ahead of our deployment to new assignments. Although this can happen at any time of the year, most reassignments are signalled in an Annual General Change listing released a few months before these new postings come into effect. This year I’m caught up in this change, and therefore I’m in a time of transition.
Perhaps Bowie nails it when he says, ‘turn and face the strange’. To name the newness we encounter in life’s transitions as ‘strange’ hopefully signals to us that we can’t know everything about the new season that we’re about to enter.
In fact, my husband and I are already joking about the need for us to wear learner driver L-Plates on our first Sunday as we return to pastoral ministry after so long away doing other things. And so, as much as we’re excited about what this next season will bring, we’ve also feeling some nervousness and even some fear.
In , New Zealander Mike Riddell suggests that times of transition are times of danger, with a gap between letting go of the old and the arrival of the new. He describes this gap as ‘the dark space where the familiar is out of reach and the nascent is not quite visible’. In such times, he says, we can long for former securities and mourn their passing – which is entirely normal.
The danger comes when we give in to our fears and become so full of self-pity and regret that we refuse to let go of what was, thereby blinding ourselves to the birth of the new.
Riddell writes: ‘We are all of us trapeze artists; to get from one side to the other we have to be willing to let go of the trapeze we are holding, and hang for a few moments in suspended animation before we grasp the next support on our wild ride into the unknown.’
As I let go of where I am, and move to where I will be, I realise that even if some supports are released and others are not yet grasped, the loving support of God will never abandon me. This brings me deep comfort.
A couple of years ago I moved on from working in a long-term Salvation Army communications role to my current role. Several months before I learnt that I was under marching orders, I wrote a poem (a rarity for me!). At the time, I felt these words were inspired by God to bring encouragement to others, yet I soon realised these were words God wanted to speak into my own heart, to prepare me for what was ahead.
Because I experienced the faithfulness of God that time (and in times of change before then), I know I can trust God again for this upcoming adventure into the unknown.
THERE IS MORE
Can you hear the whisper
of the Spirit in your heart?
Can you glimpse the picture
God is starting to impart?
Will you give that vision space;
will you give it room to grow?
Will you shift your steps to follow,
moving on from what you know?
Christina Tyson has been a Salvation Army officer (minister) for almost 30 years. For 16 years she was involved in Salvation Army communications, but now works to support local churches and recruit future leaders. Recently she also took on an additional role as The Salvation Army’s Response Officer for the New Zealand Royal Commission into Abuse in Care. Christina and her husband Keith live in Wellington, New Zealand, and have three adult children.