At this time of the year, it seems as if the whole world, including Mother Nature, is in transition. We bid goodbye to long evenings of abundant light as our days become shorter. As the heat of summer wanes, we know that the cooler mornings and brisk evenings of autumn are just around the corner. We brace ourselves to leave carefree summer days behind as we ready our loved ones for going back to school or back to college.
I was recently reminded just how difficult transitions can be as a friend shared his sadness at being an “empty nester” now that his last child was going to college. “I can’t seem to wrap my head around the fact that his room will be empty and our house will be free of our children,” he confided. “It’s really tough right now.”
Webster’s dictionary defines a transition as a “passage from one state, stage, subject or place to another” or a “movement, development or evolution.” Transitions always bring a mix of emotions — anxiety, excitement and fear all melded with grief, mourning, hope and longing. While some transitions are easier, transitions of the heart, just like the seasons, often come before we are ready to cope with them.
When my mother passed away, I remember the feeling of going home to Ireland a year later and the shock of not seeing her at the kitchen sink or the stove singing happily to herself. Then I looked to the neat place setting where my father now sits alone at the kitchen table without her and I could not imagine the pain of his own transition to life without her.
Transitions are hard on all sides. They are difficult for the one going through them and also the ones standing beside us. Life, it seems, is a series of endless transitions but also transformations. What does God tell us as we undergo transitions? Here are a couple of reminders:
1 God is with you.
While our eyes can be transfigured by the pain of transitions, never forget that God is still present and guiding us through it all. Proverbs 16:9 reminds us that “the human mind plans the way, but the Lord directs the steps.” God is always in control so let God be God. Resist the urge to cling to what has been so that new life can occur.
2. Look to Jesus
Jesus was a master at guiding people through transitions. Whether people were physically, emotionally or mentally stuck, Jesus found a way to move people along to a new way of thinking, feeling and being. Consider St. Paul, for example, and how he was literally knocked off his horse on the road to Damascus! Paul’s life was completely changed in one moment. Yours can too.
3. God wants the best for you
Just like the threshold of a door stands between what is inside and what is outside, transitions are thresholds between what is known and what is unknown, what is “now” and what is “not yet.” If our heart is open, thresholds always hold the promise of growth and newness. Remember that God our Father gave us his own son and wants to “graciously give us all things” (Rom 8:32). God wants the best for us.
If you find your heart troubled during times of transition, the simple prayer, “Jesus, I trust in you,” can bring comfort and strength. Transitions in life are inevitable, but embracing them with trust in God’s plan for our lives can bring about the transformation that we need to become the person that God wants us to be. Let go and let God in.
Stanz is director of Parish Life and Evangelization for the Diocese of Green Bay. Her new book, “Start with Jesus: How Everyday Disciples Will Renew the Church,” is now available from Loyola Press.