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Transitions Large and Small


China is full of surprises. For expats living in China, some of these surprises hit closer to home than others.

Watching as the urban landscape where one lives is being transformed can be interesting. If it means major traffic disruptions, it can be a headache. But discovering that political changes in one’s city mean that one’s work there is finished can be life-altering.

Sometimes the surprises have nothing to do with the external environment, but arise as a result of health issues, relational difficulties, or changes in one’s family situation.

Either way, transitions are not easy. They are often messy, with seemingly no clear beginning or end.

As we explore in the latest issue of ChinaSource Quarterly, transitions affect not only the individual facing change, but also their family members, friends, associates, organization, and folks back in their home country (who may end up playing an unexpected but critical role in making the transition successful).

While most people experience numerous transitions in a lifetime, some are more critical than others. Coach and author Terry Walling refers specifically to three major transitions that shape our lives. The first usually occurs early on, in one’s 20s or 30s, and involves discerning one’s life calling. The second, which involves focusing in on those things for which one is uniquely equipped and gifted (and saying “no” to all the other good things vying for one’s time and attention), occurs in one’s 40s or 50s. Finally, Walling points to a process later in life that Bobby Clinton, author of The Making of a Leader, refers to as convergence. Here is where one’s focus shifts from personal accomplishment to pouring into the lives of others in order to leave a legacy.

In each of these major transitions, what may start out as a feeling of restlessness or a sudden disruption in one’s work situation could lead to the discovery that more is at play than just one’s tasks or job assignment. These early signs of transition can point the way to a time of searching that reveals something deeper taking place in one’s life. God uses the immediate changes to eventually steer us into what is next. But first he desires to accomplish the inner work that needs to be done so that we will be ready to begin the next chapter.

Amy Young, author of Looming Transitions: Starting and Finishing Well in Cross-Cultural Service, writes in “Debriefing before the Final Goodbye,” “You may be tired of the “T” word (transition), you may be eager about what is around the corner, or you may not like all this mumbo jumbo, touchy-feely approach to life.”

Yet, Amy cautions, unless those going through transition take time to debrief, individually as well as corporately, that deeper work of God may remain unfinished. Only by pausing to reflect on what has brought them to their current destination will they then be prepared for the next leg of the journey.

For more insights on dealing with transitions read the 2017 issue of ChinaSource Quarterly.

Image credit: Airport by Jorge Díaz via Flickr
Brent Fulton

Brent Fulton

Brent Fulton is the president of ChinaSource and the editor of the ChinaSource Quarterly. Prior to assuming his current position, he served from 1995 to 2000 as the managing director of the Institute for Chinese Studies at Wheaton College. From 1987 to 1995 he served as founding US director of... View Full Bio


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