Transitions may excite you or fill you with dread. Whatever end of the spectrum you fall on, important pieces like changing jobs, making new friends, figuring out daily rhythms need to be sorted. Author and poet Sarah Wells recently went through all three of these shifts and shares her story in navigating these transitions. 

This Part 1 of a four part series on Difficulties of Transitions. Access the rest of the series here:

Changing Directions | Church Hunting | Life Together | Bringing the Word


I recently did one of those things you do in your twenties and thirties: I changed jobs. The job change was a package deal and included a new town, a new commute, a new house, and a new school district for my kids.


I wasn’t really looking to change jobs. It’s rare to think that you’ve found the job you are made for when you are twenty-five, but I was certain I had: administering a graduate writing program, managing a small press and literary journal at the university I had graduated from four years earlier, working with faculty members who had mentored me when I was an undergraduate … I was in happy spreadsheet, literature, and poetry heaven.


Everything had fallen into place to make it happen too. My husband, Brandon, and I had prayed through the job offer and acceptance, the house sale and moving plans, the birth of our second child … every single little detail that summer. And it was good.


God has placed me exactly where I need to be, I thought to myself, and I will retire from this place.


For seven years, the job continued to be my dream job. Maybe one day I’d take over for my boss, the director, when he retired, then go on to retire myself somewhere far in the future, residing contentedly in small town America in the same house we moved into thirty years prior, entertaining grandchildren on the weekends or during the holidays if they moved away, kicking back on our brick patio with my husband strumming his guitar and sipping a glass of whiskey. Even though higher education and my school kept cutting budgets, fiddling with marketing plans, and worrying over tuition dollars, my program and position felt secure. I was safe. The vision of the future was beautiful.


Well, except for those 48-hour stretches of panic. You know, those times when anxiety wins and you mass submit your recently updated resume to any company within a 60-mile radius hoping for a call back. Or those days you come home and hope for something unbreakable to throw that will be a more satisfying outlet than slamming a door. Or those moments you can feel your ambition pushing against the screen door so that it leaves web indents on your skin but the darned thing is latched and there’s no getting out.


Seven years ago, I held firm to Jeremiah 29:11. “’I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” When God said “plans,” I thought about specifics: this job. This relationship. This town. Right now. When God said “plans,” I assumed the few steps in front of me he illuminated meant the plan for the rest of my life, and that this particular path would never swerve or end.


But what do you do when the place you thought was your land of milk and honey turns bitter and sour? Is it God’s will for you to stay or to go? To ride the rough waters until the storm subsides and risk sinking with the ship or bail out on the next lifeboat? Will God abandon you if you choose poorly? What if you move on from something that was good to something you think might be better? Is there a right choice?


Does God care?


It’s this last question that I wrestle with.


This is the broken world in which things that ought to go one way sometimes go a different way. We are broken people interacting with other broken people, mixing up all of our brokenness in an attempt to make a mosaic out of the mess. Sometimes we succeed and it’s glorious. Sometimes, no matter what you try, it stays a pile of broken glass. And sometimes our vision for the future is only one small frame in the stained glass window.


I think God cares and I don’t think God cares.


I still believe Jeremiah 29:11, that God has a plan, but my ideas about what that means are probably a whole lot more narrow than God’s perspective, sweeping his gaze over all eternity. He sees the brokenness and prepares the powerful work of redemption … and that is all part of his plan too. Redemption.


I think God cares about my heart and my spirit and my mind and my body being made perfect and holy and good and beautiful. That is his personal, miraculous, mysterious love for me shining through verses like Jeremiah 29:11, Isaiah 42:16, Proverbs 3:5–6, and Hosea 2:15, promises he made to his people over and over again, letters declaring his unconditional and eternal commitment to pursue me, wherever I am, however broken, however unsure, in whatever circumstance.


I don’t think God cares whether that work of soul-shaping is done at this school or that school, at this job or that job, in this house or that house, with this wallpaper or that wallpaper, so long as our hearts are trying to listen to him. He goes before us, like a pillar of fire in the night and a pillar of smoke by day. He gave his word as a lamp for our feet and a light on the path. And, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it’”.


Whether you turn to the right or to the left.



This Part 1 of a four part series on Difficulties of Transitions. Access the rest of the series here:

Changing Directions | Church Hunting | Life Together | Bringing the Word