Shallow water isn’t supposed to feel deep. But sometimes, the deepest lessons in our lives come from seemingly shallow experiences.
The year was 1983. I was competing in the Miss Virginia Pageant — a seemingly shallow experience, at least to some. Yet, it was in that shallow-framed week of competition and activities that I learned a very deep lesson about “moving on” and “transitioning to new places.”
I was standing in front of a very large wall mirror in my hotel room, preparing an updo for the evening’s “Judges Banquet.” At this formal meet and greet, all thirty-five contestants are given a moment to make a good first impression on the five judges choosing the next Miss Virginia. It seemed all-important at the time. As I was unsuccessfully “up-doing” my hair, frustrated beyond frustrated, I heard a whisper.
This is not where you belong anymore, Janell. It’s time to move on.
Dumbfounded by such an extreme directive, I remember putting down my brush and hairpins and gasping for air. It was as if scales fell from my eyes, and I saw a completely different woman staring back at me.
But, Lord, I have wanted to be Miss America for years. I’ve trained so hard. I must win Miss Virginia. My future depends on it. Shaken to the core, I took a minute. Having been an ardent follower of Jesus for only a little over two years, I was new at hearing God’s voice and experiencing His presence. But I knew one thing for sure: I felt as if God had lifted His hand from me and that didn’t feel good. I felt very alone and very empty. I prayed, “Lord, I’m only two days into a week of competition. What do I do with this? How do I keep going?”
Transition Launches Us into the Deep
Mirror moments are rare. At least, in my life, they have been. I’ve had maybe three or four, and they usually come right before a major spiritual transition. Transition launches us into the deep waters of spiritual growth. What seems like death is often a mighty portal to an immense expansion of God’s purpose, passion, and potential in our lives. Author William Bridges writes, “Transition is the difficult process of letting go of an old situation, of suffering the confusing nowhere of in-betweenness, and of launching forth again in a new situation. All transitions are composed of
(1) an ending,
(2) a neutral zone, and
3) a new beginning.
Transition Invites Us to Unknown Places
I am sure you have had your own mirror moment. Maybe it came during a seemingly shallow experience, but nonetheless, was profound. I’ve carried three important life lessons with me through other transitional seasons: • Stay closely connected and open to God. In therapy, this is called “attunement” — living a life of receptivity and awareness. I love St. Ignatius’s contemplative practice, The Daily Examen, and have found it highly beneficial during uncomfortable “in-between” places.
• Support your soul’s heightened need for spiritual nourishment.
Times, when everything feels “up in the air”, can be mentally and emotionally exhausting. Save your energy for the journey through the “ending, neutral zone, and new beginning.”
• Sleep well. Eat well. Hydrate.
I think of Elijah’s three-and-a-half-year transition season by the Brook Cherith (1 Kings 17:1-6). This highly practical directive prepared Elijah for the subsequent new work God had for him (1 Kings 18:16-35).
Maybe today, you find yourself standing in shallow water, yet it feels strangely deep. Something is stirring inside of you, and it feels scary and scintillating all at the same time. Take a moment. Place your hand over your heart, breathe deeply, and quietly accept the ebb and flow of God’s movement.
Rest in the changing tides. Something good is on the horizon. in the changing tides. Something good is on the horizon.
Janell Rardon is a trauma-informed therapist, podcast host author, creator of The Heartlift Method and certified practitioner of Aroma Freedom Technique. Her latest book, Stronger Every Day, is available now. janellrardon.com