I enjoy competing in triathlons. I’m not a professional, and I don’t arrange my life around them; I’m just an enthusiast who is trying to stay physically fit. And as I prepare for my next triathlon race, I’ve noticed something about my workouts: the first few minutes of each event are always challenging, no matter how much I’ve trained.
The first fifty meters of my swim requires pushing past the chill of the water and some erratic breathing. The first miles of the bike ride and run both require commitment to keep going when my stiff muscles protest. But I find that as I continue swimming, biking, and running, a rhythm sets in that allows me to persist.
I can connect the same truth to other types of transitions in my life—getting married, having my first baby, experiencing children leaving home, losing a loved one. The first year after getting married is an adjustment which often requires more purposeful effort and attentiveness than the year of dating. And the first year of Baby’s life is a huge adjustment for everyone. When that first child grows up and leaves home, it often takes about a year to adjust to the new family dynamic. And the first year after a loved one dies is a roller coaster of grief and reconciliation to living life without them.
However, adjustment years are an important part of our growth. It’s in our best interest not to simply try to push past them. There are learning opportunities within those years of shifting circumstances. And God is inviting us to draw near to Him as we grow in self-awareness and the ability to rest.
For example, the first year of marriage is an opportunity to open our hearts more and learn to listen to the heart of another. The first year of Baby’s life is certainly an invitation to learn self-denial and sacrificial care. When that baby leaves home, we come face-to-face with determining the source of our dependence. And, yet again, God invites us to let go of our well-established routines and trust Him for new experiences ahead of us. The loss of someone we love has a way of catapulting us into self-examination and pushing us toward reliance on the only One who can heal our hearts.
It’s tempting to rush through these difficult experiences or grow frustrated or resentful instead of leaning into God’s invitation to draw near to Him. But if we learn to pause and accept His invitation, we’ll experience His grace-filled presence in every transition.