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Endings in Leadership

Posted on March 14th, 2012

I don’t like endings.I prefer not to ask: “What is it time to let go of in my life right now? And what is standing backstage in my life waiting to make its entrance?”

Endings are painful and slow. I like to know exactly what is God’s new beginning before I end something. I have written about embracing grief and loss so that God’s resurrections might come in The Emotionally Healthy Church and in Emotionally Healthy Spirituality.Yet, after 25 plus years of leadership, I found William Bridges and his book entitled, Transitions:Making Sense of Life’s Changes filled with golden nuggets around this process.

He breaks down our transitions to three key elements:

1.Endings. You can’t have new beginnings without endings. Neither nature, nor God, work that way. When I have tried to keep a program, a staff position, a ministry, or a role alive when it was ending, it has died regardless. The only difference was my fears kept me from making room for God to birth a new beginning.

Bridges unpacks the nature of endings into 5 areas: disengagement (a separation from the familiar), dismantling (we feel like we are being taken apart one piece at a time), dis-identification (death to our previous roles, not being sure who we are anymore), disenchantment (what gave us life at one time no longer does) and disorientation (things that seemed to be important no longer seem to matter much now).  More important than the exterior change is the interior letting go of what no longer fits.

2. Waiting. This is the  “no man’s land” between the old way of being and the new that has not emerged. It is the neutral zone of emptiness, chaos, meaninglessness, confusion. Yet this is the place of God birthing new seeds, dreams, insights, directions, revelations  to us. All the major shifts in my leadership and in NLF were all germinated in the waiting period.

3. New Beginnings. These are often untidy and messy as they begin. Only in retrospect do they look clean and orderly.

Is it any wonder why we have such an aversion to the pain and struggle that accompany endings? I am learning, finally, that endings truly must come first for God’s new beginnings to come forth.

What chapter might be ending in your life right now? What new chapter might God be writing for your life?

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