By CHRIS BATES
Transitions and transformations
We left early that fall morning to drive through Gunnison National Park in western Colorado to fly fish on the Taylor River. Our group split up to cover different areas of the river, and I took a lower section on my own with some sharper bends and steeper embankments. Although this section would be more challenging to maneuver, I knew it could hold some bigger trout.
I spent most of the morning fishing the straighter and shallower areas, picking up several rainbow trout behind small boulders and drop-offs. As the sun rose higher above the valley, I knew that the fish would retreat to the deeper holes on the outside of the river turns. As I moved upriver, I came into a canyon area with much larger boulders and a sharp turn with darker pockets of water where I knew the larger fish might hold. The real challenge was going to be wading to transition across, through faster and more dangerous water. I also knew that if I could get there, my casts would have to be tight and precise while keeping my footing in the deeper severe current.
All of those things did in fact happen, and my fly connected with the largest, most beautiful rainbow of the day by far. It was just the way that every fly fisherman wants it to happen. Coming back across the river current, however, was even more demanding. Two falls and some bruised body parts later, I was soaked to the bone and had lost some of my equipment to the fast-flowing water. Like much else in life, the journeys to and from my goal were the most difficult parts.
Many of the transitions we experience in life come behind deliberate decisions. Changes come about like a new job, a marriage, a birth or getting in shape. Even good changes can be stressful and make us long for the ease of daily predictability. Other transformations, like a career setback or lost relationship, can happen unexpectedly. We all like the security of thinking we know what is next, and surprise life events take that ease and comfort away. Fears intensify when unforeseen change happens, which makes our effort to cope well even more difficult.
The reality is that all of these changes can be stressful and difficult. Powerlessness over a situation can be felt or very real. Change is not an “if” but a “when” in life. The most important elements with life transitions, though, are how we respond to them and what we do next. Many times that is all we have any control over. C.S. Lewis said it well: “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”
We might not be able to do anything about our immediate thoughts or feelings, but we absolutely can choose our actions. In order to take the best action steps, we must have the tools to fight the battle. In order to have the right tools, we need to prepare in advance. If this sounds to you like we are going backward to get to the solution, you are correct. We often cannot control life and what happens, but we can live life today preparing, with God’s help, for tomorrow.
So the first step is to get our hands on the tools we will need. For that we can turn to the Word, which is filled cover to cover with every instrument and plan needed. One favorite is Ephesians 6:10-20, where Paul hands us the armor of God. He tells us to be strong in the Lord, then to put on the full armor, piece by piece. Once we do so, the next steps are to grow in our faith to connect more deeply with God, and then to become a better disciple. Discipleship is both learning and going out to share.
My own life has been full of transformations. Some have been joyful, others very painful. This is true for most of us as we share our journeys together. As we walk through life, let’s be prepared for the changes to come, and move forward better through the expected and unexpected. As Psalm 91 describes, God protects believers and gives us every single thing we need, through every challenge, ending in salvation at the end of our journey here.
Chris Bates is CEO and c0-founder of AgoraEversole a full-service marketing agency in Jackson, and can be reached at Chris@AgoraEversole.com. He and his wife, Stacy, and their children live in Madison.