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For Your Marriage

Josh and Stacey Noem have been married for almost 20 years and have three children in middle school and high school. They blog about parenting and their adventures as a family.

Finding God in Transition

I just realized yesterday that pretty much my entire life is in transition. Not the big kinds of transition like a big geographic move, or change of job, or children leaving the house, or the death of a loved one. But the little kinds of transition like aging, or when co-workers come and go around us, or when daily and weekly family schedules change. With big transitions we expect a certain amount of tumult and stress. But with the little gradual transitions their impact is subtle and, worst of all, cumulative. Perhaps they feel like a chronic illness that is more uncomfortable than painful at first, but that, over time, wears you down.

This is the type of transition in which I find our family. We are completely stable and day-to-day life seems to be the same — same state, same house, sort of same jobs, and sort of same schools. It’s the “sort of’s” that I had not fully accounted for and that seem to be creeping up on us.

In the fall, Joshua started a new job and Simon switched schools. These are significant shifts for the two of them, but for the whole of the family they seemed relatively negligible at first. Joshua’s new job is at the same institution. Simon’s school is four blocks from his previous school. So from the outside, things looked similar. But the lived experience as a family is significantly different.

Joshua has totally different hours and totally different levels of connectivity to his work now. Simon is adjusting well to his school but that makes three children at three different communities of learning. When the polar vortex came through the Midwest we had three different weather adjustments: one regular school day, one two-hour delay, and one cancellation. None of these are big adjustments or even significant inconveniences, it’s just one example of how the stress of non-routine can accumulate. It wears on us over time.

That wearing can feel like a certain erosion of our family foundation. That is to say that an essential element to how we build intimacy with one another is the time that we spend together. When our schedules are so constantly in transition from one week to the next, it can feel like we do not have firm ground to stand on with one another. When this is the reality month in and month out we begin to question if this is the new normal, and what do we do if we do not like this new normal? IS there anything we can do?

Joshua wrote a post during Advent that touched on how that season felt more like Survivor this last year He concluded with an insight about clinging together to just one thing, one spiritual practice, because it is enough to journey together, and God will meet us on the road. That insight has held firm for the first part of this year in our family. We continue to prioritize the interpersonal practice of sitting down to dinner together each night (no matter how early or how late), and the spiritual practice of family prayer before heading to bed (no matter how long or how short).

But, truth be told, I wonder if it is enough for the long haul. I don’t actually think that it is. It preserved and nourished us for a season. But as with stress and transition, the body is only made to be able to handle them for a finite amount of time. So the strategies to make it through non-routine times only hold for so long. They are stop-gap measures until a new routine, a new foundation, can be established. Does that mean that God did not, is not, “meeting us on the road”? No, quite the opposite. The deep desire in us for something more, something better, is God speaking to us, calling us further down the path.

That is our current work, looking for what feeds us in this new normal. And, not surprisingly, because God is faithful, one answer has already begun to reveal itself: time together in nature. We find God in the beauty and transcendence of nature; and sharing that unique solitude helps us to find each other as well.