I am dizzy. Not the short-term disorientation that comes from spinning in circles like my 2-year-old loves to do, or the physical impairment when equilibrium is affected. My life feels like it is in a metaphorical spin, just fast enough that I cannot quite get my bearings. Maybe you can relate with this crazy year that we are having. From COVID-19 and ongoing setbacks from the pandemic, racial injustice and protests, nauseating political escalation, the black-hole of social media, or this phenomenon in the media in an age of unverifiable truth–things are hard to comprehend much less navigate. In my own life the calling of itinerant pastor has led my family to leave a community and church we loved deeply to put down roots in a new faith community. New home, new town, new job responsibilities, new community, new doctors, new barber, new dentist, new grocery store, etc. You get it…if I talk any more about it, we will be dizzy together. What do you do when you cannot stop the spinning? What do you make of this time in between what was and what will be?
Leadership theory calls this season the neutral zone. This place of transition and change is unsettling and dangerous, but it is also pregnant with potential. William Bridges describes the neutral zone:
It is the winter in which the roots begin to prepare themselves for spring’s renewal. It is the night during which we are disengaged from yesterday’s concerns and preparing for tomorrow’s. It is the chaos into which the old form dissolves and from which the new form emerges. It is the seedbed of the new beginnings that you seek.”
As much as I am tired of the spinning and ready to settle in a little, it appears the neutral zone is a critical place to be. What we do here, and more importantly what we allow God to do in us in the neutral zone will be the seedlings of the life that is to come. Consider the implications in our current landscape.
In your home there is no doubt that COVID-19 has changed things. We do not fully know what the months and maybe years to come will look like as a result. Maybe you have school aged children and education will be very different or your work experience is radically altered. If you are a worshipping family, church has almost all but been removed from your weekly experience. Your faith journey can no longer depend solely on the local church, but discipleship is now further pressed into your own responsibility. Your home is in transition.
Once again, we are forced to see that racial equality has never been an actual reality in our country. Many, for the first time, are opening their eyes to how bad it really is, while still some are digging further into their close-minded views of the world. High Schools named after confederate soldiers, statues dedicated to slave owners, and cities built on the subtle foundation of racism are under a magnifying glass. What was will have to change in some way, though to what degree it does is still unclear. We are in the winter where things are barren and bleak, but my hope is that there is a seed ready to grow.
Maybe you, like me, are caught up in all of this. I refuse to believe that this neutral zone and potential for life is Christian fascination or naïve optimism. So, what do we do? Well I think I need to do some assessing of the soil in my heart. Jesus promises seed in the neutral zone, but he says the soil is important:
“Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. 6 But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. -Matthew 13: 3-8
I know things are disorienting right now, I feel it too. But what if we worked a little harder in this season? What if we focused on the things in our life that need to go and remove them and what if we watered those things that God wants to grow, personally and corporately? I know gardening is manual labor and this work is spiritually and emotionally taxing but I also believe God has a spectacular harvest in mind for me, you, and the world.