The concept of “change” stirs up quite a potpourri of emotions in people: excitement, fear, peace, anxiety, uncertainty, nausea, heartache, heartburn (does this list sound like the side effects of a commercial medication yet?). Some people love change, finding themselves craving it every few days, weeks, months, or years. Others try to avoid it like a poison—you know who you are. But both of these categories of people have one thing in common: they often agree that change is hard.
Change seems to be the theme of my summer, making its grand appearance in the lives of my family and close friends, and in my own life as well. In a few short days, I will be loading all of my yet-to-be-packed luggage (time to get on that…) and somewhat portable belongings into a couple of cars and heading across the country to the Mile-High City for graduate school.
It’s in these times of major life transitions that many of us crave the security of knowing that change can be easier than we think it to be. So how can our faith make change easier?
We never have to do it alone.
I remember the first day at my new high school after my move to Georgia the middle of my sophomore year like it was yesterday. I’ve always been pretty outgoing, but all of that confidence seemed to soar out the window when I walked through the threshold into an unfamiliar hallway in early January. I can remember the knots and lead butterflies whirling around in my stomach and the dryness of my mouth which felt like someone had stuffed it with cotton balls. But I also remember the feeling of comfort I had when I made it to lunch that day and saw my younger sister from a distance; her face was like a beacon of light shining in my direction, reminding me that I was not doing this on my own.
Sometimes we are fortunate enough to make major transitions with a family member or friend by our side. But in the times when we are turning the page on a new chapter of our lives by ourselves, we can look for reassurance and companionship from its greatest source: Christ.
In Matthew 28:20, Christ assures, “…lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”
I admire one friend of mine who is about to move to South Georgia for a new job. He knows only a few administrators at the school in which he will be teaching and pretty much nobody in the town. But his attitude clearly reflects the frequently quoted advice of our beloved Pope John Paul II: “Be not afraid!”
We’ve all sung the famous lyrics of the hymn, “Be Not Afraid,” in which we recite the words, “Be not afraid / I go before you always.” But Christ doesn’t just go before us; He goes beside us, with us, in us! Our faith gives us strength to change—from the inside out!
We embrace the excitement of new things.
One of my favorite Scripture passages is Revelation 21:5 “…Behold, I make all things new….” Our faith has a way of turning the ordinary into the extraordinary. It puts a new lens on situations in our lives that we forget to see beauty in and illuminates new roads down which we are meant to travel. Our faith truly helps us to embrace the excitement of new things.
One of my best friends got on a plane to Taiwan last week to teach in a school in Taipei for two years. I can think of more than a dozen people whom I know quite well—myself included—who might get a little weak in the knees just thinking about a change like that. But the overriding emotion my friend has had as she approached her big move? Enthusiasm. A priest friend of mine once told me that the word “enthusiasm” is based on a Greek word that means “inspired by or possessed by God.” I suppose an all-consuming love and trust in the Lord can breathe enthusiasm and excitement into any and all new endeavors!
We live in the present.
The Book of James gives us all some chilling insight into the importance of living in the present. “…Whereas you do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes…” (James 4:14).
In Matthew’s Gospel, we read, “And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life? Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day” (Matthew 6: 27, 34).
Two wonderful young Catholics, whom I have known for the past year or two through young adult ministry in Atlanta, got married last week. Marriage is an exciting and significant change in the lives of two people. It requires a lot of faith and a heavy dose of living in the present. Many decisions each individual had previously made alone, they will now make together. They will have shared bills to pay, mouths to feed, and souls to nourish with the help of the other. How will they rely on their faith to help them do this? By learning from Scripture the art of living in the present, of making every moment one that they are pleased to offer back to each other, and most importantly, back to their Heavenly Father who gave them that very moment and the free will to do with it what they will.
Pope Paul VI once said, “Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows.”
We have hope in God’s will for us.
I’m reminded of those words of the Our Father, which we all so often fail to live: “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done…”
If we truly have hope and trust in God’s will for us, change should be an easier thing than we often make it out to be. When we know that it is God’s will and not our will instigating a shift in direction in our life, it becomes much easier to have confidence in the eventual outcome. Some months ago, a close friend of mine broke up with her boyfriend of four years. I asked her one day how she managed to be getting through the healing process so well. She told me she believed it was God’s will that she moved on in her life, and she had hope that following His will would make her a better person, a happier person—even if she couldn’t see the happiness right now. That is precisely what hope is: desiring something and expecting you will obtain it. So having hope in God’s will presupposes that we trust Him!
Pope John XXIII said, “Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.”
In a few short days, I’m pickin’ up and movin’ on, but I’m definitely taking my faith with me. It’s your most valuable commodity when changing. Don’t you forget it.