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  • Katie Smith

Transition time

I had braces on my teeth starting in 7th grade like most kids in the 90s, and I didn't get them off until I begged the orthodontist my junior year of high school, saying I had prom to attend and "would he pleeease consider removing them ahead of schedule." Well, he conceded, and no one asked me to prom despite my beautiful, white teeth. I still carry around my retainer like a stick of gum so that I never have to endure the dreaded embarrassment of being asked how prom went.

That orthodontist wanted to wait another 6 weeks to "ensure" the positioning of my teeth, but I was sure I'd keep them in place on my own. My two eldest sons are currently rocking their own oral hardware, and their orthodontist also said the metal would remain for 6-9 months even after the work was complete. I guess maintaining form takes time. We have to let paint dry, jello mold, cement settle, and oral gear sit. When we remove something too soon, it doesn't keep its shape.

Likewise, when we remove hardship too quickly, it won't give us the lasting change that God intended. I think that's why Paul didn't have the thorn removed from his side even though he asked God three times. God wanted Paul to remain humble in the midst of all the grand plans He had for him.

"So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Cor. 12:7-10)

Suffering serves to solidify our wholeness, otherwise we return to a life of fragmented pieces situated among our pride. We try to serve ourselves without any lasting maturity. Too much power or perceived control, and we deviate from God's will. When we think we are the driver, we cause reckless fender benders. But He knows how to take our broken world and use the pain for purpose. We don't even know how to number our days. God, on the other hand, knows how long it takes to recalibrate our behavior through consistent repositioning. He uses transitions while we avoid them. If we settle into transition, the time between pain and pleasure, then we grow.

Imagine that silent Saturday after Christ's death. It was a day of transition-- a day we often ignore today, but back then it was painfully, transitionally silent. The severe disappointment from losing the one person who could save the world from slavery and death. Grief is an emotion that has natural steps and progression. But when you mix it with disappointment-- unmet expectations-- the confusion is palatably painful. God saw Resurrection Sunday the whole time. He always knew what was coming. We want to hurry past the time in between pain and purpose, but He wants us to sit in the uncomfortable silence just long enough to change our character.

Never disregard the time in between change. The time from death to life. It matters because it molds us. Transitions slow our pace to increase our prayers. “To walk with Jesus is to walk with a slow, unhurried pace. Hurry is the death of prayer and only impedes and spoils our work. It never advances it” (John Comer, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry). So to advance our very being, we must allow discomfort to finish its work even if that means leaving the braces on a little longer than we'd like.

~Carefully and Carelessly transitioning

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