Rites of Passage
One of my hobbies is canoeing. When canoeing, I sometimes encounter the phenomenon known as “white water.” The water is white because it is running very swiftly, usually over submerged rocks.
White water, to most canoeists, is both “good news and bad news.” The bad news is that it is rather easy to capsize the canoe when in white water. And, if dumped in white water, one is more likely to be injured or even to drown.
Also, there is possible damage to the canoe and loss of contents. (Perhaps worst of all is the pain of embarrassment if seen by other canoeists!)
So, the least desirable place to dump the canoe is in white water, yet this is the very time when that is most likely to happen.
And now for the good news: white water can be a lot of fun! It can be exciting and challenging, and one can make very rapid progress in white water.
It is very interesting to note that the most dangerous part of the trip can also be the most rewarding.
The Rapids of Life
Times of transition are like being in “white water.” These can seem like difficult and dangerous times, and they can seem like exciting times when things move very swiftly. These can be times when we make very rapid progress in our spiritual growth.
A transition is often a time of crisis. We generally don’t like the experience of crisis. We may not even like the sound of the word; however, the Chinese language presents us with an interesting perspective on the word crisis. In Chinese, the word crisis is formed by a combination of two other words: one word meaning “danger,” the other “opportunity.”
One rather poetic translation I have heard refers to “crisis” as “opportunity riding on a dangerous wind.”
If we were to use the metaphor of sailing, rather than canoeing, we could see this same principle at work.
Change as Opportunity
Transition may be an uncomfortable time, yet it is always a meaningful time. It is a time when the old order of our life is disrupted. It is a time when our old way of being is disturbed. It may even be a time when our sense of reality is challenged.
Though painful, these can be extremely significant times in our life. Times of transition are wonderful opportunities to gain strength and wisdom—opportunities to experience spiritual breakthroughs and healings.
Transition may provide the breakthrough necessary to live an entirely different life, not just the old life in a new way, but an entirely new life …
Some transitions occur by choice and others are thrust upon us—ready or not! Some we can predict while others are rather unpredictable. Some transitions are pleasant and welcomed, others are unpleasant and usually unwelcomed.
Certain transitions, such as retirement or divorce, may be welcomed by some and dreaded by others. Sometimes a particular transition may cause us considerable pain at its onset, yet in retrospect be seen as the turning point leading to a very positive life change …
A transition is often a time of crisis. We generally don’t like the experience of crisis. We may not even like the sound of the word.Rev. Robert Brumet, Finding Yourself in Transition
Stages of Transformation
A rite of passage consists of a ritual in which the initiate undergoes a symbolic death and rebirth—ending one phase of his or her life experience and beginning another.
Anthropologists have recognized that each rite of passage has three stages: a “separation” phase in which the initiate is removed from the old order and undergoes a symbolic death, an “initiation” phase in which the individual is then sent away from the tribe or village to confront and to experience the purpose and the meaning of his existence, and finally, a “return” phase in which the individual is reintegrated back into the social order as a totally new person …
Each of us who is going through a transition is a potential hero, for we are leaving our old familiar world to venture into unmapped territory, not knowing what fate befalls us.
Like the ancient mythological heroes, we will encounter the “dragons” of fear and self-doubt; we will engage fierce battles within our soul, and ultimately, we will, if we persist, discover “the treasure,” the Holy Grail, the wonderful gift of freedom and power that each transition promises us if we but have the heart to take the journey …