I recently had a very brief but meaningful conversation with an
old friend. We had not talked for months and even now it seemed we
could only find a few minutes in our busy schedules to sit down and
video-chat. We caught up on new jobs and showed each other around
our new homes. Both young adults, we had a number of new things
happening in our lives.
I have many friends who are going through "transitions," whether
that be into priesthood, parenthood, married life, full-time
employment, life in new cities, or new lives back in the same city.
With all of this transition comes a sense of uncertainty. Did I
pick the job that is the best fit? Did I make the right decision in
moving away? In moving back? Am I on the right path?
I have no doubt that most people go through this stage in their
life. Most likely, we go through this stage of "transitions"
multiple times - it might be at the beginning of adulthood, when
the kids move out and head to college, when we retire, or when we
lose someone close to us or face another unforeseen circumstance.
Each stage, each "transition," hopefully makes us stronger and more
able to face the next.
Every single night since we have been married (which has been
just over a year and half), my wife has asked me: "What has been
your favorite part of the day?" right before I fall asleep at
night. Most nights I answer something simple like "dinner with you"
or "the nice weather."
And other times I can be rather smug and answer, "My pillow and
the fact that I am going to sleep." No matter my answer, she keeps
asking. And some days it causes me to pause and share thanks for a
meaningful conversation that helped me find stable ground in a life
There is no doubt that most of the time during our life journey
of transitions, a few encouraging words goes a long way. But, how
often do we look at someone who is having difficulty with something
new or unforeseen and say, "I have been there," then share that
often-maligned-yet-all-too-common unsolicited advice about how to
get through it?
I do it, and we all do from time to time. We especially like to
respond this way with people who are closest to us. We already know
them and have spent hours working hard to support them. Our advice,
then, should be considered and graciously received.
Is there a way, though, especially with those who are closest to
us, to change "I have been there" to "I am with you now"? We all
face transitions and new circumstances that challenge who we are
and what we want to become. Sometimes these shake us badly and we
find ourselves diving into the sort of depth that forms character,
builds or breaks relationships, and gives perspective that forms
our future choices.
I do think that my wife's question every night is a nod to her
constant and stable presence in my current transitional life (and
hers). It is a simple outreach that reminds me to be grateful and
focus on the parts of life that are going well.
One of my favorite saints, St. Francis de Sales, in one of his
writings, shares an encouraging image of a God that holds us by the
hand, matching His steps to ours and happy to walk at the pace we
set. Perhaps to all of us who have been through it and to those of
us who are going through it now, this image is one to encourage us
on the journey. In those moments where we are tempted to say "I
have been there," it reminds us that God always says, "I am with