It seems as though the moment we make a big decision and finally get accustomed to life settling down, another big transition is looming on the horizon. Young adulthood is filled with significant decisions and transitions like choosing a college, selecting a major, discerning a career path, selecting a service program, deciding where to move, buying a house, getting married, joining a religious order… we are constantly facing transitions into new experiences.
As these are often new experiences on a road never before traveled, navigating the feelings, questions, uncertainty of these times of transition can feel overwhelming. Rooting ourselves in communities where others are also wrestling with similar experiences helps us know of God’s encouragement and support in our next steps.
Ignatius encourages looking back on moments of grace in our history when we are experiencing moments of great unease, restlessness, or uncertainty. Savoring these moments affirms God’s fidelity even when it is difficult to see the full path ahead. This meeting may be especially appropriate for college seniors or young adults that find themselves on the verge of significant transitions in location, career, relationship, or – really – anything.
My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am
actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
How do we feel coming to this meeting? What is one primary feeling or state of being that we are currently experiencing?
Introduce the topic to the group. Invite them to listen to the first-person story of a young adult who found herself in transition. You may encourage them to pay attention for feelings that sound similar to what they’re experiencing, or any other concept that catches their ear as they listen. You also may ask one of the more animated people in your group to read the reflection.
“It is the final semester. Graduation is looming, and each day seems to bring a “last” something-or-other… last club meeting, last midterm ever, last day at my student job… I start to wonder with each person I see, will this be the last conversation I have with this acquaintance until our 20th reunion? Yet, with each last bringing be closer to the end of this chapter in my life, I don’t feel any nearer to knowing what the next chapter will bring. I’m still waiting for job offers, acceptance letters (or, gasp, rejection letters), figuring out if I’ll be selling my futon because I’ll be moving across country or simply moving it to the apartment down the street if I get the job here I want. And if I stay here, will it be too difficult with my friends gone? They’re waiting, too, and few of us have decided what that next step will be. It doesn’t help that every person I meet and every family member I have keeps asking, “So, what’s next?” I try to look like I am keeping it together, but under the surface, I’m feeling a bit panicked. I don’t know where I will be in 4 months, and that’s unnerving. I’m excited for a new adventure, but sad to leave what I know and afraid that the next phase of my life won’t be as good as this one. I’m keeping it together on the surface, but underneath that façade, I feel like a hamster running on a wheel going nowhere.
What surfaces most of all are the questions. They come at me when I’m falling asleep, when I’m walking to class, when I’m eating my Cheerios, even when I’m listening to my friends. Uninvited, they pop into the front of my brain like flashing neon lights. What is next? Who am I? Who am I called to be? How am I called to be? What is the will of God?
That may be my deepest fear: that I won’t make the right decision and won’t choose what God is inviting me to do. It has been a continuous discernment and also a balancing act of trying to live in the present and embrace the now, but also open my eyes, ears, heart, mind, and soul to be conscious of how I am being called into a deeper faith. There is an itch inside for something more, but what is that something more and how do I discern it?
The questions of my being and purpose in life don’t stop coming. Each question forces me to search deeper in my being for what is at my core, what remains in the stillness and silence. The clamor wins out over this depth: What is God’s will? What does God want for me? What do I want for me? How do I hear what God wants? What if I don’t like what God wants for me? How do I know what is the best decision for this time in my life?
These questions lead to others: What are my values? What are my priorities? What gives my life meaning? What currently in my life excites me? What brings me joy? What are my passions? What have I recognized are my strengths? What have others in my life identified as strengths and qualities that define me? What am I good at? What draws my attention? What are the needs around me? How can I be of use?
Yet, reality sets in as well. What are the basic necessities that I need to support myself through change and transition? I wonder how I can do this while also creating opportunities of personal and professional growth. I am scared of where this may take me, especially at the prospect of venturing farther and farther from my family, home, and the community that has come to mean so much to me.
What images, thoughts, questions, and discussions come to mind when I think about what is next? What is it that I ultimately desire in life? What if I desire something that doesn’t seem possible? What is the will of God? Who am I? Who am I called to be? How am I called to be? What’s next?
As I pause to quiet my mind from all the restlessness that lies within: I am called to get in touch with a deeper undercurrent in my life, deeper sense of promise, a deeper trust in God’s presence. I look back in amazement as to how I got to where I am today and the many blessings God has already provided. I consider that to be the journey of faith…trusting that God will lead the way and provide. In my perspective, that is the graces of God and the power of Faith. I can take a deep breath and almost feel like I’m able to surrender, to trust.
And then, that hamster wheel starts spinning again.”
Invite the group to take a few minutes to reflect on this story, to pay attention to what resonated the most (or least) with them, and to consider what their story would be if they were to write about their own experience of waiting in the face of transition.
Invite members to reflect and or/free write on the following questions based on the reading. Encourage each group member’s own story of transition to emerge:
- What initial thoughts come to mind when reading these words?
- Where do you find your own story embedded in the story of the author?
- What images come to mind?
- What are your “hamster wheel” questions?
- What message is God saying to you at this time through your reflection? How does God gaze upon you and all that is in your heart?
- What has struck you as you have been listening to others share? Do you notice any patterns or similarities?
- How have you been feeling throughout the meeting? Comfortable? Anxious? Curious?
- Is there anything you would like to share after listening to another person share?
- What is remaining with you? What do you hope to return to in prayer at another point in the week?
Catch yourself when you notice the hamster wheel going or questions about the future getting out of control, and try to be still with God for just a few moments.
“Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient with everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient with being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability –
and that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you.
Your ideas mature gradually – let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time,
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that His hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.”
(Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.)
“Our vocation calls us to live this spirituality, which opens and disposes us to whatever God wishes in each concrete situation of our daily life. We recognize particularly the necessity of prayer and discernment, personal and communal, of the daily examination of consciousness and of spiritual guidance as important means for seeking and finding God in all things.” (CLC-USA General Principles #5)
“As we continue to make progress in the spiritual life, the movement of the good spirit is very delicate, gentle, and often delightful. The good spirit touches us in a way that a drop of water penetrates a sponge. When the evil spirit tries to interrupt our progress, the movement is violent, disturbing, and confusing. The way that the evil spirit touches into our lives is more like water hitting hard upon a stone.” (Spiritual Exercises )
“There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens. A time to give birth, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant.” Ecclesiastes 3:1-15