This Week’s Sermon- From College To “Beyond”

This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Part 3 of our series on “Transitions”  
(You can still read Parts 1 and 2 here and here)

by Karis Elder

Note from Eric:  My daughter, Karis, has written a beautiful message for you this week about how God is helping her through the transition from college to what people tell her is the “real world.”  The life lessons she is learning apply to us all.  If you’re a college student, or know of someone who is, these words will be especially relevant, so please read them and forward them on to your family and friends!  Karis’ wordsand God’s Wordmay be just what you need to help you through any transition you’re going through in life.

I don’t know of many people who actually really love transition and change, yet it seems like most of our lives are spent in constant change and transition. We do a lot of waiting in our lifetime, waiting in line, waiting for a new season, waiting for the next thing.

Lately I’ve been going through the transition of graduating from college and living in what people told me was the “real world.” As well as graduating from college I was also transitioning out of our college ministry, and I never realized how hard it could be to transition out of these things into a new stage of life. When I finally graduated and no longer had homework, no longer called myself a student, no longer lived with all of my college friends, no longer had the routine of classes and events, I felt really lost. I realized that for basically my entire life I had been a “student” and that what had come to be a constant solid unchangeable thing in my life was suddenly gone. Most of my friends had recently graduated as well and left to go other places, and it was, and still is, really unsettling.

Transitioning out of our college ministry, which I had been a part of for over 3 years, was also difficult as I had spent so much time and energy pouring into students and loving and serving a campus in such an amazing way that when I didn’t have it anymore, I felt lost as well. I found that so much of the last few years of my life my identity had begun to be really found in being a student and in the things that I did while I was a student. These titles had become my identity and I didn’t even know it till I was stripped down. Bare. Bringing nothing but myself to the Lord. I didn’t realize how much of my identity had been found in what I did rather than who I was. I thought that what I did made me valuable; I thought the good grades I got and the hours I spent studying the Bible for class and the number of spiritual books I read in a month or the number of people I invited to our ministry made me valuable. And when I didn’t have those things any more, I was humbled to find that I’m still valuable and loved by God no matter what I do. My dear friend Kelsey reminded me that I am valuable to God just because I am His child, not because of how many things I ever will do for Him.

Transition is defined as “a change from one state or condition to another,” and when I read that definition, it kinda reminds me of my spiritual life with Christ. The Holy Spirit dwelling within all believers is constantly refining, purifying and transforming us to look like Christ. We are in a constant state of being changed from one condition to another. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 3:18, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” Christians constantly live in the tension of what Bible scholars call the “now-but-not-yet” principle. Believers are new creations in Christ, and yet they are still being transformed into the likeness of Christ. The Kingdom of God is here in our midst, yet all creation is eagerly waiting for the day of final transformation when Jesus comes back. So while we know that both our everyday lives and our spiritual lives our constantly in transition and being changed, so often we just wish away the process and can’t wait to just “be there” already, and we miss the beauty of what God is doing in the process.

I’ve been reading this book called The Good and Beautiful God and just finished a chapter about transformation. At the end of each chapter, the author, James Smith, has a “soul training” exercise for the reader to practice to solidify the truths they read in the chapter, hoping they will continue to “train” with the exercises long after finishing the book.  The practice for this week was solitude, intentional time spent away from other people, where it’s just you and God. Smith quotes Dallas Willard and says “When we go into solitude and silence, we stop making demands on God. It is enough that God is God and we are his.” I’ve been realizing that the only thing that doesn’t change, no matter what transition I will ever go through, is God and my identity in relation to Him. Even though I am not a student, I am still a pupil of my Teacher. Even though I may not be a servant leader in a college ministry, I am still a servant leader in the Kingdom. I am still a child of God, even when one day I am married and have kids of my own. I am still the Beloved of the Lord, even when I am married and have a Beloved of my own. I am still delighted in by the Lord, regardless of how much I “do” in a given week. My job will always be to make disciples of all nations, regardless what my “job title” is. No matter what transition I ever go through, there are some truths that never change, though I will undoubtedly be changed in the transition.

Recently, after I had a really long and hard week, my boyfriend, Terry, and I were praying, and he reminded me about an analogy. He was praying and just encouraging me that even as a caterpillar needs to spend time in a cocoon before it can become a butterfly, that I also need to spend time in my “cocoon” with Jesus as He transforms me into His image. And it is the cocoon (or transition) stage between caterpillar and butterfly that most of us really don’t like—that place where we’re not quite at the place where we used to be, but we’re not quite where we are going yet. The cocoon is such a beautiful and amazing place where God literally takes one thing and turns it into another thing entirely. But so often I just want to be there that I forget the steps and the process it takes to get there. It is in the transition of the cocoon where we find healing, rest, and comfort. But I’ve realized as I’ve gone through many transitions in my life—moving around, changing churches, losing my Mom, getting a job, making new friends, getting a boyfriend, graduating college, transitioning to a new ministry—that sometimes it can also be a little dark, cramped, uncomfortable and painful. And then I remember that in a cocoon, one creature is becoming something entirely different. Some things need to just be changed or refined, and other things need to be totally done away with in the caterpillar’s life so that it can become a beautiful butterfly. So sometimes I don’t want to enter the cocoon. I’m scared of the darkness and the uncomfortableness of transformation. I have no control. I don’t know what’s happening.  But I can trust my Heavenly Father. I can trust that the other times I’ve entered the cocoon, the process was so worth the growth and the transformation that happened. I can trust Jesus as He says “Look, I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:5). The line in the David Crowder song All This Glory is true, “In the middle of the mess, there is majesty.”

It is in the secret place as we rest in the cocoon and refuge of Jesus’ Presence that we find healing and joy in transition. In this transition particularly, I keep hearing Jesus calling like He called the disciples in Mark 6:30, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” It is in that place of quietness and rest with the Lord that we find hope when it seems least likely to be found, when the transition seems like it’s never going to end, and what “is to come” is not coming fast enough. I love this passage in Lamentations, after the prophet Isaiah has been lamenting and in despair, he says:

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’ The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” (Lamentations 3:21-26).

The Lord is faithful and His love is steadfast and that gives me hope. No matter if you’re just entering into a transition, in the middle of a transition, or coming out of a transition, God’s love for you never changes. Jesus wants meand He wants youmore than He wants the work that we could do for Him.  The first and highest call on a Christian’s life is just to be with Jesus.  So may you spend time with Him today.

Follow-up from Eric:  For our Ranch Retreat in October, we’re focusing specifically on the topic of “transitions” and how God can help us through them.  Karis will be there, along with some of her friends!  If you’d like to join us, we’d love to spend the weekend with you, too.  Click here to learn more or to register.

The 2nd Annual Ranch Retreat!

Cover photo of "15 Tips For A Stronger Marriage"

If you’d like to get a paperback copy of Eric Elder’s recent series called “15 Tips for a Stronger Marriage” just click this link to visit The Ranch Bookstore and make a donation of any size OR click this link to visit and write a 1-2 sentence review of the series then email us your name, address and link to your review.  Either way we’ll send you a copy of the book anywhere in the world.  Your gifts and reviews help us to keep spreading God’s life-changing Word to people in 160 countries every day!

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