Imagine you’re driving in your car. The road is without imperfections—perfect for a fall drive—and the ride is smooth. You couldn’t ask for a better time to take a trip. Suddenly, a bump—you feel a jolt in your seat—and then something peculiar captures your attention. The road in front of you is vastly different than when you were just driving it seconds ago.
It is narrow, windy, and forcing you to focus on the task ahead of you. There are bumps and holes littering the road, and it feels less like a casual cruise and more like an arduous responsibility. You take a sharp left turn, a turn you never remember even being aware of before, and now you’re going uphill. You are being forced to push the pedal to the floor, to accelerate, but the climb strains and taxes your engine.
Often times, this is exactly how our lives can feel. Things that were so concrete before become so unknown the day after. Our feelings can go from being assured and confident to scared and a nervous wreck. These are our times of transition.
And they are necessary because they teach us an important lesson—God gave us multiple gears to shift into, and we need to learn how to use them.
I, myself, am currently in a state of transition. It’s a weird feeling isn’t it? We all know and have experienced it at some point in our lives or another. We walk with steps that feel right; steps that feel fluid and sure. Then those steps change, and the feelings behind those steps change, and we feel our hearts sink a little or get a little too jumpy. Those steps become maybe more timid, more weak, or unbalanced.
I can’t count how many times I have felt those shifts, those differing steps. And I can’t count how many times I have, in fact, been intimidated by the change in my emotions and the change in my lifestyle. Even when we know God is leading us into a certain direction—when we know that something is what we are meant to do, or a direction is where we are meant to explore—our natural response is to use words to box those feelings and try to limit the damage.
Uncomfortable. Weird. Difficult. Tiring. Scary.
And that’s an okay thing to do, to try to explain and define the transition you are feeling. Naturally, we just want people, and most of all ourselves, to understand what is a very hard to comprehend thing in our lives. When everything is changing, we look to the tangible to put ourselves at ease. But there of course, is a concept we need to learn to adopt and accept during these times of transition. And that involves looking inward.
That involves learning how to shift gears.
According to explainthatstuff.com—yes, I went to explainthatstuff.com—shifting gears is an important part of a functioning system, like cars and bikes. Without explaining all the crazy nitty-gritty stuff, there are three primary functions of using gears to shift: speed, force, and changing direction. And these three principles are exactly the three principles we are meant to keep in mind as we also learn to shift our gears in our transitions through life!
Things in life can go from calm and uneventful to intense and over-scheduled in a heartbeat. We all know that as a fact of life, yet we all forget to learn how to shift our gears accordingly to change speeds. Just like driving on a highway, sometimes you’re okay going 70 and all the sudden the speed limit drops to 50. Those speed changes happen for a reason though; to keep us cautionary about what’s around us; to have us be aware of the dangers of taking our paths too recklessly without being prepared for the unexpected obstacles that cross our journeys. Or even to just have us soak in the moment and the scenery so that we can fully appreciate where we are.
It’s important to know though that if we go one speed for too long we will inevitably run out of gas too quickly. Whatever is fueling us can become overlooked; less of an agent and reason for doing what we do, and more of just a thing that keeps us moving. What’s more, we will force more wear and tear on our tires—we will effectively burn ourselves out—and the love will dissipate from our desires. I for one have experienced that; where you stop from all the constant “go, go, go” attitude and ask yourself, “Why exactly am I doing this? Where did all the fun go?” My tires were shot from trying to push the pedal too hard instead of knowing when to accelerate and when to listen to God and slow things down a bit.
Sometimes though, the hill is too steep to just trudge up. When you see the climb ahead and you look up, you think to yourself, “Wow. The odds of me being able to get up this are slim to none!” That however, is the wrong approach. That is admitting defeat, and crumbling under pressure. Doing that doesn’t help you rise above your circumstances—it only puts you into the fetal position.
When we face steep climbs on our individual journeys, we need to shift gears to apply more force! We need to put more power and passion behind our efforts to really accelerate up that mountain.
For some, this might be the hardest gear to shift into. We will often want to take an alternate route, a shortcut, or a detour to get around the mountain and to not have to tax ourselves by shifting into a mode of passionate commitment and endurance. Yet God calls us to live a life that says otherwise:
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Colossians 3:23 ESV)
He doesn’t tell us to work with just enough energy, or to work with minimal effort. He calls us to work heartily, to shift into the gear of force to power our works for Him. Once we do that, we can get up that mountain. We can drive through any hilly terrain with the pedal to the floor, because we know that the intentions and fervor behind our drive are the same things that are driving us to our ultimate destinations.
But life, and the paths we take, are never a straight traveled road. It is never constant, easy-breezy cruising. Sometimes we need to go a path that feels different than what we intended, or even take a path that is completely unexpected and unknown to our internal road maps. That is when we need to shift into the gear of changing directions—of going with the flow so to speak—to navigate through the turns and tribulations that we face every day.
For me, this is the most difficult gear to shift in, because I often want to focus on one route. I often want to put my full passion and effort into going in one direction that God gives me, without caring to understand that I might need to take a detour or two to get there. And really, that goes hand in hand with being patient. If you take five different turns and six different roads to get to your destination, it might test your level of impatience a little bit! Life is never about going a single route—and the sooner we understand that we can navigate the roads by shifting our gears and our hearts to feeling that direction change, and trusting in it—then can we master our paths and make our transitions smoother and easier to stomach.
When we learn to switch gears for the different situational transitions in our lives, we not only make things a bit less rocky for us, but we really glorify God in showing patience and understanding. So too do we show maturity in how we handle ourselves, and put ourselves in a position to be an example to others in navigating through their struggles and transitional periods. But most of all, shifting gears is necessary not just because of the peace it brings to us.
It’s necessary because it helps us prepare for what we are ready to come to grips with: that the route is long and up to us to traverse.
Written by: Michael “Bboy Roach1” Roach