In conversation after conversation that I'm having lately, people are in transitions of one form or another. Certainly our natural circumstances are plenty to trigger a number of people working through some kind of life transition, but it seems to me that God is going above-and-beyond in moving people through life and spiritual seasons right now. At a recent teaching I was doing, I asked the group to raise their hand if they were in some kind of major transition at the moment that was the opposite of what would make sense in our pandemic environment. I expected there to be a number of people, but I was shocked when roughly half the room raised their hands!
I've been giving this subject quite a bit of thought myself lately, as the Lord has me in a transition as well (hence the new website). More on that another time I'm sure, for today lets wrestle with the questions we're all facing if like me, you're in one of these transitions. How do we navigate these changes in life season well? What is important when you're in a season change? What do you hold on to, what do you let go of? One of the tricky things about this season change moments is that important questions like this have different answers in a moment like this than when we are in the middle of a season.
Walk by Faith, not by Sight
One of the most difficult facets of season transitions is that our ability to read our environment drops significantly. The stability of a season often allows us to have a loose sense of expectation of what life has ahead. Certainly we cannot predict every details, but we have a general sense of the trajectory of where things that matter to us are heading. In season changes, that ability to see ahead drops dramatically. Rather than walking with vision for where things are likely to go, it feels like we're wondering around in fog; unable to see further than a few feet ahead of us. Usually just enough to take the next step, and not really much further. In times like this, we experience Paul's infamous words:
So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 2 Corinthians 5:6–9
Paul reminds us that our true home is with the Lord, even though we cannot experience that in its fullness at this point. It is nevertheless true, and if we walk by faith we can find the courage we need in this life. I find his words so helpful; they give me a sense of focus as to how to orient myself in a season like this. What is going to give me the courage that I need? Walking by faith, not by sight. But here is the million-dollar question: how do I walk by faith, not by sight? Often at this point we stop thinking carefully about what Paul is saying and we jump in - trying to flex some "faith-muscle" somewhere, trying to conjure up faith as an act of our will. In my experience that just about never works. Faith isn't something we can summon up, and that approach is not likely going to help us when we are in a season transition.
What is more helpful that trying to flex our faith muscles is to circle back to where our belonging lies. Even while I am in the body and "away" from the Lord, my belonging is with him either way; it's my aim to please him, regardless of which side of the mortal divide I am on. Jesus is our constant, our north star for all phases of our eternal journey, and when my eyes are on him, faith is the more natural response.
In some portions of our path, the visibility we enjoy at other times seems to drop to nearly nothing. Ultimately, this is only a problem if my trust is in my own ability to see. If my trust is that I am in the hands of the Lord instead, whether or not I see is far less central. When you can't walk by sight, perhaps the lesson of the moment is to focus on growing in trust rather than fighting to find a way to see.
Cultivate Spiritual Capital
I read a fascinating little book a few years ago called Oikonomics (a play on words between "economics" and "oikos" - the greek word often translated 'household' in the New Testament). In this book, the authors suggest that there are five separate types of capital, and that a good part of living life well is recognizing and ordering our value for these different types of capital rightly. Here is the list they give:
- Spiritual capital (currency = wisdom & power)
- Relational capital (currency = family & friends)
- Physical capital (currency = hours & health)
- Intellectual capital (currency = concepts & ideas)
- Financial capital (currency = dollars & cents)
The book suggests that our lives ought to be lived in light of this being the order of priority, and that whenever we need to grow one of these capitals, the way to do so is to invest some of the other capital into them. Want to cultivate your relationships? You probably need to spend at least time, possibly money to do so, etc. I find the clarity of this model fascinating and helpful in terms of aligning my priorities with the kingdom of God.
To draw this model through into the present discussion, what often happens is that in these season transitions, our capital in one (or more) of these areas start shifting dramatically. Perhaps we are facing a career change (financial + relational capital changes), maybe the Lord tells us to invest in a new trade or skillset (physical + intellectual + financial capitals), or perhaps we find ourselves wrestling with a traumatic family situation (relational capital), or facing an unforeseen health crisis (physical capital). Whatever the natural triggers, the result is often that our capital in one of these areas begins to change, often with an uncertain final result.
As I navigate the season transition that I am presently in, what I hear the Lord saying over and over again is this: cultivate spiritual capital. Ultimately, this is the most valuable of the capitals, and if that is indeed true, then it is indeed capital that you can re-invest in any of the other ones later should you need it. In fact, in my experience, spiritual capital has this funny way of actually producing the other ones in unexpected ways. We've all experienced profound life-giving relationships in the context of our spiritual journey, and often they're with the people we never predicted. We've all experienced a break-through idea that came through the context of our faith somehow, and so forth.
Often in the moment, I find myself fixated on each capital and working on each one separately. Perhaps my financial capital is decreasing; I usually try and solve that by looking for financial solutions, not necessarily by expecting to invest other capitals to create financial capital. The fact is though, they work together as a system. They each can feed each other and we can shuffle value back and forth between them as we invest them in each other.
So what makes the most sense when things are uncertain? Invest in the most valuable one, the one that cannot be taken away. Invest in your spiritual capital and you guarantee the value of your investment. When the "markets" of our relationships, health, time, ideas, and cash are becoming volatile, put your money into the "trust fund" of your relationship with Jesus and you'll find the value there never decreases.
What does it look like?
How do we actually do all of this? How do we walk by faith and cultivate spiritual capital in uncertain times? This is a vast subject, and one we don't have time to flesh out fully here. Suffice it to say there are loads of spiritual practices, etc, that we can explore as means to connect with God and cultivate our relationship with him. Part of the fun of the Christian journey is learning how to connect with God personally, in the way we're wired as the unique us. Exploring all of that is beyond the scope of where we'll go in this article, but most of that is meat on the bones of a couple simple steps that we just repeat over and over and over. Here is what they look like:
(1) Tune in to God
The Christian journey is one of relational connection. It's about walking with a God who we can know and who knows us. Like all relationships, connection is the first step, and connection begins with bringing our attention to interacting with each other. We begin to invest in our relationship with God by tuning into him. We experience his voice through the Scriptures, prayer, meditation, journalling, and a zillion other potential outlets. They are all outlets to that one end though; tuning in to God and getting a real connection with him in the present moment.
(2) Obey what He's saying
The end result of our connection with God is often some sort of action. God is active, doing things in the world, and when we interact with him, we often come away with something we are to do. Be it large or small, we usually have a step of obedience to walk out, and if we don't, our relationship with God doesn't take steps forward (it recedes instead).
Investing in our relationship with God and growing our spiritual capital is as simple as that; tune in, obey, tune in, obey, tune in, obey. In fact, that is so much the focus for seasons like this that we only usually get one step at a time. The fog that blurs our visibility is about one-step worth, because reinforcing that spiritual capital building process is the key lesson for the moment. While we cannot see ahead, God can, and he knows the level of capital we need ahead. Each new season we move into, we need to have more capital than the season before we're ready for it. To prepare us well, God brings us back to one of the first lessons, listen and obey, to push our relationship with him to the next level as the first step of the next season.