I vividly remember my first day of Kindergarten. I tried to act tough, but I was inevitably the kid with uncontrollable tears streaming down my face as soon as Mom and Dad dropped me off at school. It’s not that I didn’t like my school or friends, but it was clear from then onward that transitions were going to be hard for me. Certainly entering my senior year at Boston College, I didn’t cry when my parents left (at least publicly), but four weeks in, I still find myself struggling to adjust back to this new environment. I am a little taller now, but just like my 6-year-old self, I still struggle with transitions in my life.
I think this is most apparent when moving into college every year, but especially during freshman year. Almost every part of my life changes the moment I arrive on campus. My high school and childhood friends scatter around the country while my Boston College ones all return to the Heights. My stable work schedule gets flooded with homework, extra-curricular commitments, and BC meal dates that do not seem to end until late into the night. My faith community gets a lot younger and more energetic and how I express that faith becomes more relatable to the average twenty-year-old. My sleep patterns disappear, while my opportunities for intellectual engagement sky-rocket. It is true that these changes have the potential to be stimulating for me intellectually, personally, and spiritually. At the same time, these all-encompassing and rapid changes in such integral dimensions of my life send me on an emotional roller-coaster and I sometimes find it hard to stabilize.
Periods of external transition are difficult, but they create conditions which allow us to enter into a personal transition of self-growth and discovery. As someone who likes to be in control, the uncertainty I experience often caused me to reach for stability as I try to recognize my discomfort as a chance for growth, rather than simply an obstacle. One pillar that helps ground me is my faith, specifically by reflecting on the life of Jesus, who was no stranger to hard transitions.
Jesus bounced between transitions his entire life: first fleeing as a newborn refugee from Bethlehem to Egypt with two young, poor parents, then traveling from Nazareth to Galilee each day as a young boy to work with his father, and finally as a constant traveler for his three-year adult ministry, full of rapidly changing environments. My favorite example of transition for Jesus is when He intentionally positioned himself into a place of physical and spiritual transition by entering the desert for forty days before his adult ministry. Jesus recognized the personal transition he needed to undergo to be best prepared to spread the Good News, and that this necessary internal change could only come from His own external hardship.
Beyond the fact that Jesus died for our salvation, that He is God incarnate on Earth, what always struck me about Jesus’ life is that as a human being like each of us, His life and ministry serve as our guide and companion to demonstrate how to live a beautiful and loving human life. In this light, Jesus’ approach to times of transition shows that in our own lives, difficult transitions can be positive avenues towards personal growth. In many ways, these transitions are our own deserts which will make us better prepared to spread the Good News. And finally, when it is hard to see the benefit that will come of my struggles, it helps me to remember that my God has already walked a genuine human life of transition, so that I have an understanding companion with me every step of the journey.